The 5 Best Protein Sources For Vegetarians

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The 5 best sources of protein for Vegetarians and Pescatarians

5 Best Sources of Protein for Vegetarians and Pescatarians

Meat or no meat – a full spectrum of amino acids is necessary for a healthy living. Some stop eating meat for health reasons while others decide that they do not want to eat any flesh of animals or products from animals.

Two things are for sure: Most of us are eating too much meat while the quality of most non-organic meat is questionable at the least.

Adding more veggies to your diet is definitely not a bad choice – even if you do not convert completely.


One issue especially vegans are confronted with is how to include the healthy amount of protein into their diet. How can a vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan make sure that he nourishes his body with the full spectrum of essential amino acids?

On first look, there seems to be a sheer endless amount of food with high protein levels that allow us to consume the necessary amount of protein (app. 0.02 oz per pound/bodyweight).

But protein is not the same as protein. Food is more than the sum of its single components. Considering the optimal nutrient profile of amino acids, micronutrients, anti nourishing nutrients, carbohydrates and fat here is my top 5:

1. Fish (an option for pescatarians)

Pescetarianism is viewed by many experts as the healthiest diet of them all. A pescatarian will eat fish or other seafood but not the flesh of other animals. Famous pescatarians include(d) Steve Jobs, Howard Stern, CM Punk (a UFC fighter…to be) and many others.

Fish is not only a great source of protein but also contains a large list of nutrients like Omega-3 acids, as well as lots of minerals and vitamins.

Sustainable fishing methods and fish stocks should be considered when making your choice.

2. Eggs

Organic Eggs, Protein Source

Eggs have a perfect amino acid profile. They offer the full amino acid spectrum.  In addition to that they contain vitamins A, D, E, beta-carotin and omega-3 acids.

Sheer endless possibilities for preparation make eggs a winner.

This is only true for organic eggs from chickens that have been raised with natural food on grassland. Eggs from battery hens contain only a fraction of the nutrients found in organic eggs.

Eggs are one of the foods where it is especially important to go the organic route so that you do not end up eating antibiotics and other unwanted contents.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt is made from milk and the consumption of dairy products is being disputed for a good reason. Yogurt is fermented and therefore completely different from the raw material.

While there is still controversy, yogurt is easier to digest and an effective source of protein with a great amino acid profile and additional nutrients.

The best choice are full-fat products. Greek Yogurt (often made from sheep milk) is a great choice. Pure, natural yogurt (without added sugar or flavor) has the abovementioned benefits.

4. Quinoa 

Quinoa is a pseudo grain. It looks like grains but belongs to the sweet grass family. Quinoa is gluten free while offering the full spectrum of amino acids.

The protein from Quinoa (app. 1/15 is pure protein) is accompanied by carbohydrates (in the form of starch). Just keep that in mind if you are trying to limit your intake of carbohydrates.

5. Green Vegetables and Leaf Vegetables

5 Best Protein Sources

The protein content of green veggies like spinach, kale or broccoli is surprisingly high for vegetables. Phytochemicals and micronutrients make green veggies a great choice.

The amino acid profile of green vegetables and leafy vegetables is rarely complete so that a combination of food is necessary to make sure you get the full spectrum of essential amino acids.

Second winners:

1. Potatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes mostly offer the full spectrum of amino acids. As potatoes contain a lot of energy in the form of sugar (calories!) they are only the second winner.

Personally, I would not eliminate potatoes from my diet as I just love them too much. The healthiest way to prepare them is to cook them with skin (no salt in the cooking water).

2. Tempeh, Miso and Natto

Three products made from fermented soybeans. Through the fermentation process that removes some of the anti nourishing nutrients,  Tempeh, Miso, and Natto are easier to digest (than unprocessed soybeans). It is still questionable if they are recommendable.

One of the concerns with soy is that it contains isoflavones (similar to the hormone estrogen).

By 2012, 94 % of all soy grown in the United States was genetically modified.

Who did not make it to the list

Nuts, legumes, tofu, grains

Nuts contain considerable amounts of protein but also of (saturated) fat. Nuts are not bad per se, but it seems to be recommendable to enjoy them in moderation.  

Legumes are a popular source of protein. But they also contain a lot of anti nourishing nutrients, including lectins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors.    Artisan methods of preparation (soaking, germinating, fermenting) and proper cooking can make them an acceptable source of protein. They do contain a lot of carbohydrates.  

Tofu is a highly processed unfermented product made from soybeans. In addition to the concerns with soybeans, it often contains risky additives. In my opinion, tofu is unhealthy food Only fermented soybeans offer the benefits most people expect from tofu. The difference between fermented and unfermented soybeans would make for a separate article and is like night and day.   

Grains contain gluten and other anti nourishing nutrients and can be considered a problematic protein source. Read all about grains here: 5 Reasons for eliminating Grains from your Diet

Conclusion

There are many good sources of protein for vegetarians and other people who are looking to eliminate meat from their diet. Vegans have to be a tad more creative than vegetarians and pescatarians.    The choice should not be based solely on the amount of protein or protein profile of a food. Anti nourishing nutrients, nutrients (vitamins, minerals), secondary plant substances and the level of processing complete the picture. And last but not least the taste.    More articles related to health, nutrition and weight-loss HERE