Usually people who make the choice to go meatless jeopardize their dietary balance because the protein intake is reduced while carbohydrates start to rule.
It is important to keep in mind that in order to maintain optimal health most people need a diet that provides 50-60% carbohydrates, 10-15 % protein and 25-30% healthy fats. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet the amount of protein in grams equals 50 to 75 grams.
It is well known that meats are rich in protein, as a matter of fact a serving of 3 ounces of any meat provides about 44% of the recommended daily intake for this important nutrient, while also providing vitamin B-12, vitamin B6 and some vitamin D.
On the other side, meats can also be a source of cholesterol, proving about 20% of the recommended daily intake and consumption has been linked to inflammation, which might be the reason why many people decide to go meat-less.
If for a matter of health, culture, or simply taste, you prefer not to eat meats do not worry, here is a list of 9 super foods that can help you increase your protein intake while providing other essential nutrients.
Seeds such as pumpkin and chia are great snacks to enjoy any time of the day. Pumpkin seeds contain 9 grams of protein per quarter cup serving, while Chia seeds have 4 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons.
Add Chia seeds to smoothies or yogurt; blend them in homemade juice or add them to your morning cereal. Pumpkin seeds go well in salads, mix them with dried fruits or eat them by themselves, yum!
Nuts are great sources of protein. Peanuts offer 10 grams of protein per each quarter cup. Other nuts such as almonds or walnuts offer about 8 g of protein per quarter cup. Eat them as such or put them in the blender to make peanut spread or almond spread.
You can also choose to eat peanut butter or almond butter with whole wheat bread, crackers or as a dip with celery sticks or baby carrots. Nuts are also rich in dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, the good fats that help reduce bad cholesterol.
Many people do not like chickpeas but I believe that it is because they haven’t found the right recipe. Chickpeas go great in salads, stewed, or blended as a dip, like in hummus.
When eating 1 cup of chickpeas you take in 15 grams of protein, iron and half the amount of dietary fiber you need for a whole day.
#6 Hardboiled Eggs
Egg lovers here we come! A serving of two boiled eggs has 17 grams of protein. Eggs are also rich in vitamins B6, B12, D, riboflavin and many essential amino acids. Just be careful with the cholesterol amount and do not exceed eating more than 6 eggs per week.
Edamame can be eaten as a snack, side of a meal, vegetable or entrée. Just steam them and add a bit of sea salt to enjoy the 18 grams of protein it provides per cup. Edamame also provides a significant amount of dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K.
#4 Low Fat Greek yogurt
A small 7 ounce cup of this yogurt hides 20 grams of protein and 230 mg of calcium, which helps cover 23% of your calcium requirements for a day. Because it is low fat it doesn’t have high amounts of cholesterol and you can eat it in many ways.
Eat it mixed with fruit and/or granola, add some herbs and spices and turn it into a salad dressing or dip. Top your pancakes or waffles with yogurt and berries or add yogurt to smoothies for a creamier and more nutritious result.
#3 Soy Beans
Soy beans can be eaten plain as a snack or as a topping to salads or soups. You can even add some into your smoothies. Every ounce of this superfood brings 24 grams of protein. It also has dietary fiber, essential amino acids, and 6% of the desirable iron. The best part is that it has zero cholesterol.
Beans in most forms are an excellent source of protein providing an average of 45 grams per cup. Enjoy different varieties of beans. Beans come in different colors: white, pink, black, pinto, etc, and all equally delicious.
You can eat them in soups, as a side dish, blended with cumin and herbs in a tasty dip or boiled and rinsed in salads. Beans are full of other nutrients too. They provide more than the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber and essential amino acids.
They are an excellent source of iron, calcium, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and K, magnesium and manganese. They are also very high in potassium.
And the winner is….
With 47 grams of protein per cup this food almost provides all the protein you need for a day, plus it comes with dietary fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and many essential amino acids.
Because of the amount of protein and other nutrients in lentils it is our protein super food of the day! You can eat lentils in soup, as a dip, with salads, stewed or with rice. When adding rice to lentils and other beans the amount of amino acids increases which facilitates the amount of protein that is absorbed by the body.
When thinking of good sources of protein remember alternatives to meat products such as lentils and beans. Choose wisely and aim to eat whole grains and beans regularly, as side or main dishes, or even snacks, as part of a balanced meal plan.
If you are not familiar with some high protein foods look them up and try new recipes. Cooking and tasting new foods could be a happy and healthy experience that will help you to meet your daily protein goals.
Feature Image: Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image: Shutterstock.com & trythis.co