Vegetarians must either eat complete sources of protein, meaning the source packs all essential amino acids, or a combination of incomplete sources of protein to make up for any amino acid deficits.
Sources of plant-based protein are typically incomplete protein sources, and so one must consume a variety of plant products packed with protein to ensure one is getting all 9 essential Amino Acids.
Luckily, there are many surprising sources of protein, so finding foods that pack a protein punch is not hard to do.
Here are a few vegetarian protein hard-hitters:
These little pods pack quite a punch, with one cup of edamame containing 22 grams of protein. Edamame is also green in color which lets us know that it contains some levels of cellulose, which is good for helping clear out the intestines. The human body cannot digest cellulose and therefore it has a “pass-through” effect in the gut, acting as fiber.
These legumes are a nutritional powerhouse, with about 18 grams of protein in just one cup of cooked lentils. In addition, they are packed with fiber, folate, and other B vitamins. Lentils are likely to keep you fueled and energized for longer periods of time compared to other foods.
The high protein content helps cells stay fueled and the fiber expands in the intestines, thus helping regulate water levels in the large intestine and colon. Fiber also has the benefit of helping stabilize the release of glucose into circulation. B-vitamins are involved in energy reactions of the body, some acting as coenzymes in the process of cellular respiration.
There are many surprising sources of protein
Loaded with 6 grams of protein per ounce, this superfood has just about as much protein as an egg. Hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts) are a good source of healthy fats, including Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid), Omega-6 (linolenic acid), and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). GLA has been found to produce prostaglandin E1, a hormone that has been found to oppose the effect of prolactin in women. Prolactin is attributed to many of the symptoms of post-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and probiotics (good bacteria), containing about 28 grams of protein per cup serving and is low in fat.
Greek yogurt is delicious and creamy making it a perfect addition to a morning smoothie to add both flavor and texture. Greek yogurt is a great snack for avoiding undesired cravings that might lead to overeating, it is also a complete source of protein.