By William Kitner
(KTRN Exclusives) A common misconception among meat eaters is that vegetarians don’t get enough protein in their diet. If you watch the film Forks Over Knives, the experts interviewed will argue that many meat eaters are actually getting too much protein. In fact, protein is plentiful in the plant kingdom. So, if you choose not to eat meat, what are the best sources of protein? Note: not everything on this list is vegan.
Eggs are a great source of protein, mainly because it’s complete, meaning all of the essential amino acids are present. One egg has about six grams of quality protein. Some will argue that there is too much fat and cholesterol, but according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no significant link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks. Plus, they contain the right kind of fat. One egg contains 5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated. Eggs are also one of the only foods that contain natural vitamin D, but remember to eat the yolk, it’s in the egg for a reason. Nature would not have put it there otherwise. If you’re really concerned over the fat of the egg, make scrambled eggs using one full egg and 3 or 4 egg whites, that way you still get some of the health benefits of the yolk like B-12. Remember though, your eggs should either be organic or from free range chickens. In a perfect world, you would get them directly from the farm where you have met the farmers and their chickens. Factory farmed hens are tortured every day. Not to sound like an activist, but do some research of factory farming eggs and then decide if you really want to eat them.
Whey is another great source of protein. According to Dr. Axe, it’s a great protein for building muscle and strength. “It provides a more absorbable source of protein than any other source and is super-easy to digest.” Just one scoop of whey protein will give you around twenty to twenty-five grams of solid protein. Be sure to choose whey isolate over concentrate; it’s higher than concentrates in protein content which makes them lower in carbs, fat and lactose. It’s also really important that you not get your whey from companies that use artificial colors, sweeteners, or processed sugars. Try an unflavored whey and add fruits, organic cocoa powder, and stevia. Also try to make sure the whey comes from cows not treated with antibiotics or growth hormone.
Tofu has gotten some bad rap over the years due to the GMO soy industry. But if you’re eating organic, non GMO tofu, it’s quite a good source of protein. Like eggs, tofu is also a complete protein and is an excellent source of calcium and a very good source of iron. In addition, tofu is a good source of selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium. As with all foods, make sure you are buying the highest quality tofu, it must be organic and non GMO. Many health experts also argue that fermented soy like tempeh is considered to be even better and some say it’s the only form of soy you should eat. While there is much debate over soy and its health benefits, eating tofu a few days a week is a great way to get some protein without eating meat. It’s vegan too.
Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain; an average of 16.2 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for rice. Some varieties of quinoa are more than 20 percent protein. Quinoa’s protein is of an unusually high quality. It is a complete protein, with an essential amino acid balance. Quinoa is also considered a good source of bacteria for the gut, the intestines and the colon. It is also on the low end of the glycemic index. This makes it a great choice for those with blood sugar issues . You’ll also get your daily doses of vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, potassium, and riboflavin. Furthermore, quinoa is a great source of copper, zinc, magnesium, and folate. Instead of rice, eat quinoa instead. It’s a “supergrain.”
Black beans (and beans in general) pack on some good protein. Add them with rice and you will get a complete protein. They also have some carbs, so if you’re watching that you should be mindful of their carb content. Keep in mind that carbs are needed in your diet – if you are eating no carbs whatsoever, you are really missing the boat.
Other good sources: almonds, pea protein, hemp protein, spinach, spirulina, Quorn, seitan, tempeh