By Dana Leigh Smith
Feed your muscles with lentils, amaranth, hummus, and more tasty eats.
With the ever-growing popularity of protein shakes and half-pound burgers, there’s no denying that our culture is obsessed with eating protein. So it should come as no surprise that vegans and vegetarians are constantly questioned about going meat-free—despite the fact that neither diet by definition is lacking in the muscle building nutrient. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you know exactly what we’re talking about—and you’re tired of getting asked questions about the sources and quantity of your protein intake.
Here’s what you need to know: Incomplete proteins—like whole grains, nuts and produce—can join together and produce a complete protein, packed with all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own, so as long as you consume various sources throughout the day, you're all good! To help you stay healthy and strong, we’ve compiled a list of the best vegetarian proteins for weight loss below. ! And for even more protein-filled eats that fit into your diet, be sure to check out these 25 Best Carbs That Uncover Your Abs!
Protein, per tablespoon: 2.5 grams
Though chia seeds don’t contain that much protein, they do contain all nine essential amino acids. Thanks to the seeds’ blood-sugar stabilizing ratio of satiating protein, fats and fiber, they’re the perfect hunger-busting addition to your diet, and can help you lose inches. But that’s not all: ALAs, the specific type of omega-3s found in chia seeds, can decrease the risk of heart disease, according to a Pennsylvania State University study.
Eat This! Add chia seeds to yogurt or a homemade vegan smoothie to keep your energy levels soaring all morning long—or try any of these 40+ best chia seed recipes for weight loss!
Protein, per ½ cup: 2-21 grams
So many ways to eat soybeans, so little time! To get the most bang for your buck, make tempeh, a traditional Indonesian fermented soy product, part of your weekly lineup. A mere half-cup of the stuff packs in 21 grams of protein. Another solid bet: dry roasted soybeans. With a half-cup serving up a whopping 18 grams of protein, it’s one of the best high-protein snacks around. Steamed soybeans (4 g protein/0.5 cup), tofu (10 g protein/0.5 cup) and soy milk (2 g protein/0.5 cup) also provide a solid hit of complete proteins and magnesium, a mineral that’s essential to muscle development, energy production and carb metabolism.
Eat This! Eat roasted soybeans solo as an on-the-go snack, or add them to homemade trail mixes. Slice and pan-fry tempeh and use it in lieu of meat on a sandwich, order edamame (steamed soybeans) as an appetizer next time you’re at a Japanese restaurant, or add soymilk to your overnight oats.
Protein, per tablespoon: 3.3 grams
The hemp seed — marijuana’s edible, non-intoxicating cousin — is gaining recognition as a nutritional rock star—and for good reason. Studies suggest that hemp seeds can fight heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, likely because they’re rich in fiber and omega-3s.
Eat This! Simply sprinkle the hemp seeds into salads and cereals, or add hemp protein powder to your post-workout shake. No time to cook? Check out these 5 Hemp Products You Need to Know Now.