3 Meat Free Protein Sources Every Vegetarian Should Be Eating

May 25, 2012 9:50 AM EDT | By Amanda Remling
Beans
Beans are a great (and delicious) source of protein. (Photo: Flickr )

Protein is a must in everyone's daily diet due to its nutrients. Commonly found in meat, fish, poultry, milk and eggs, when a vegan or vegetarian cuts these products from their daily intake, they are also cutting their protein.

Protein is a "body guilder," states Savvyvegetarian.com. While a lot of your body is made up of water, much of it is made up of different kinds of protein, helping to maintain our blood, organs, muscles and more. It seems obvious that having too little protein can greatly hurt your body, but having too much protein can do the same. Those who intake too much protein are at risk for cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes among a list of other things.

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The good news is that vegetarians and vegans can still maintain their cruelty-free diet while including a healthy amount of protein in their diet. Protein garnered from plant based sources are even better for you, explains Savvyvegetarian.com. The reason is that protein from plant sources "doesn't include excess calories from fat, toxic residues, or an overabundance of protein, which stresses the kidneys.

With that said, take a look at 3 (delicious) meat-free protein sources that every vegetarian or vegan should be including in their diet. Even if you are not a vegetarian or vegan, be hip and follow "Meatless Mondays" with these cruelty-free tips.

Beans

Getting your protein intake is easy when just a cup of beans gives you about a third of the iron and protein you need. Beans also provide half your fiber intake, which helps lower your cholesterol. What a bonus!

There are a couple things you want to keep in mind though when taking the bean route. VegetarianTimes.com warns that canned beans can sometimes contain a lot of salt. Check the sodium on the can before purchasing. Another tip is to use the uncooked bags of beans. While it might seem like a hassle to cook them up, it is really easy and can actually save you money!

Not sure how to incorporate beans into your meals? Check out this delicious vegetarian chili recipe from the Food Network and Emeril Lagasse. Instead of the cooked brown rice, try substituting baked polenta (Just layer the finished chili over a couple slices of the baked polenta and your good to go).

Tofu

This isn't very shocking. Tofu is an important staple in any vegetarian's diet. According to the Huffington Post, a mere half-cup serving of tofu can provide you with over 10 grams of protein. Tofu is really a super food, also providing the consumer with zinc, iron, calcium, and depending on what kind of tofu, can even supply your daily dose of vitamin D.

Tofu can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish (throw it in the chili recipe above to replace ground beef). I personally enjoy firm tofu because it is easier to work with, but check out your local health food store for different options.

Last year while attending the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee I tried tofu scramble and it quickly became one of my favorite tofu meals. Try this recipe from Oprah.com (Girlfriend knows her stuff) for a delicious tofu scramble. To really make it your own throw in your favorite vegetables!

Leafy Greens

Don't laugh at Popeye! If you cook a cup of spinach, you are taking in over 5 grams of protein. Don't particularly care for spinach? Well you're in luck because broccoli, kale, Swiss Chard and collards all fall into the leafy greens category.

Besides eating them for their protein, the leafy greens group also provide cancer fighting antioxidants vitamin C and iron.

Try this spinach lasagna recipe from SavvyVegetarian.com to get your leafy green fix.



 

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