Protein is an inevitable part of a healthy diet, but not all people know that they can satisfy their protein requirements without eating meat.
According to Daniel Pendick, the former executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch:
“Protein is essential to good health. The very origin of the word — from the Greek protos, meaning “first” — reflects protein’s top-shelf status in human nutrition.
You need it to put meat on your bones and to make hair, blood, connective tissue, antibodies, enzymes, and more. It’s common for athletes and bodybuilders to wolf down extra protein to bulk up. But the message the rest of us often get is that we’re eating too much protein.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.”
Moreover, HealthLine explains:
“Proteins are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are linked together like beads on a string. These linked amino acids form long protein chains, which are then folded into complex shapes.
Some of these amino acids can be produced by your body, while you must get others through your diet. The latter are called essential amino acids.
Protein is not just about quantity but also quality. Generally speaking, animal protein provides all essential amino acids in the right ratio for you to make full use of them — which makes sense, as animal tissues are similar to your own tissues.
If you’re eating animal products like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy every day, you’re likely doing pretty well protein-wise already.”
Despite choosing a high-quality protein, make sure you also have a few small protein meals during the day.
Eggs and dairy are complete proteins, as they contain all the essential amino acids. On the other hand, most plant-based proteins are incomplete, meaning that you should eat various kinds of them in order to meet your needs.
Here are the best choices you can make:
Dairy products like eggs, milk, cottage cheese, and cheddar, are high in protein, and also optimize your calcium levels.
|Fat-free cottage cheese, 1 cup||31 g||160||1 g|
|2% cottage cheese, 1 cup||30 g||203||4 g|
|1% cottage cheese, 1 cup||28 g||163||2 g|
|Fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup||14 g||137||0 g|
|Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup||13 g||155||4 g|
|Parmesan cheese, 1 oz grated||12 g||129||9 g|
|Whole milk yogurt, 1 cup||9 g||150||8 g|
|Goat’s milk, 1 cup||9 g||168||10 g|
|1% milk, 1 cup||8 g||102||2 g|
|Swiss cheese, 1 oz||8 g||106||8 g|
|2% milk, 1 cup||8 g||121||7 g|
|3.25% (whole) milk, 1 cup||8 g||146||8 g|
|Low-fat cheddar/Colby cheese, 1 oz||7 g||49||2 g|
|Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 oz||7 g||72||5 g|
|Provolone cheese, 1 oz||7 g||100||8 g|
|Cheddar cheese, 1 oz||7 g||114||9 g|
|Blue cheese, 1 oz||6 g||100||8 g|
|American cheese, 1 oz||6 g||106||9 g|
|Goat cheese, 1 oz||5 g||76||6 g|
|Feta cheese, 1 oz||4 g||75||6 g|
|Part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 oz||3 g||39||2 g|
Grains are rich in protein and whole-grain carbs, and they are excellent for muscle-building.
|Amaranth, 1 cup cooked||9 g||238||9 g|
|Quinoa, 1 cup cooked||9 g||254||4 g|
|Whole wheat pasta, 1 cup cooked||8 g||174||6 g|
|Barley, 1 cup cooked||7 g||270||14 g|
|Spelt, 4 oz cooked||6 g||144||4 g|
|Oats, 1 cup cooked||6 g||147||4 g|
|Bulgur, 1 cup cooked||6 g||151||8 g|
|Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked||6 g||155||5 g|
|Brown rice, 1 cup cooked||5 g||216||4 g|
|Whole wheat bread, 1 slice||4 g||128||3 g|
|Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice||4 g||80||3 g|
Beans, peas, and lentil are all legumes, rich in protein, fiber, and iron.
|Legumes, 1 cup cooked||Protein||Calories||Fiber|
|Soybeans||29 g||298||10 g|
|Lentils||18 g||230||16 g|
|Split peas||16 g||231||16 g|
|Navy beans||16 g||258||12 g|
|Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)||15 g||269||12 g|
|Black beans||15 g||227||15 g|
|Kidney beans||15 g||225||11 g|
|Lima beans||15 g||216||13 g|
|Pinto beans||14 g||234||15 g|
Nuts are abundant in protein, antioxidants, fiber, and heart- healthy fatty acids. Therefore, increase the intake of almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and pine nuts, and note that hazelnuts and chestnuts contain the lowest protein.
|Nuts, 1/4 cup||Protein||Calories||Fat|
|Peanuts, raw||9 g||207||18 g|
|Almonds, dry roasted||8 g||206||18 g|
|Pistachios||6 g||171||14 g|
|Hazelnuts||5 g||212||21 g|
|Pine nuts||5 g||229||23 g|
|Cashews, raw||5 g||197||16 g|
|Walnuts||4 g||164||16 g|
Soy is also a rich source of protein, so you can freely consume tempeh, soy milk, and tofu!
|Soybeans, 1 cup cooked||29 g||298||10 g|
|Tempeh, 4 oz cooked||21 g||223||13 g|
|Edamame, 1 cup shelled||20 g||240||10 g|
|TVP, 1/4 cup dry||12 g||80||0 g|
|Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted||11 g||200||1 g|
|Tofu, 4 oz raw||9 g||86||5 g|
|Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons||7 g||170||11 g|
|Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened||7 g||100||0.5 g|
|Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened||7 g||80||0.5 g|
Add seeds to your salads and pasta, and you will consume a lot of protein, phytochemicals, and unsaturated fats.
|Seeds (1/4 cup)||Protein||Calories||Fat|
|Hemp seeds||15 g||232||18 g|
|Pumpkin seeds, roasted||9 g||187||16 g|
|Flaxseed||8 g||191||13 g|
|Sunflower seeds, roasted||8 g||205||18 g|
|Sesame seeds, roasted||6 g||206||18 g|