Protein is essential to survival and is found in many foods. Although meat is a very popular source of protein, it can also be high in saturated fats. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein is approximately 54 grams for men and 47 grams for women. This protein, outside of animals, can be located in a variety of foods, including cereals and grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, certain vegetables and soy products. By combining several of these each day, you can reach your daily allowance without the need for meat. Non-animal foods are often an incomplete version of protein and must be combined for full effect.
Legumes include peas, peanuts and beans and are a common ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cooking for their high source of protein and versatility in recipes. Most legumes are also a high source of fiber, providing additional nutritional benefit. Legumes like peanuts can also make an excellent snack for easy protein on the go.
Cereals and Grains
Cereals and grains are the byproducts of grasses that have been cultivated for consumption. The grains are rich in protein and can be found in a variety of foods. Pastas are made from grains like wheat or buckwheat and can be used in many different styles of cuisine. Buckwheat also contains a complete protein, meaning it can be eaten alone for the full protein benefit. Corn and brown rice can be added to most meals as a side dish and provide healthy additional of protein.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are versatile foods with a lot of protein. They can be used as part of recipes, on their own as a snack, or even as a topping on desserts or salads. Nuts like almonds or cashews provide protein and fiber but may also contain added salt. Hemp seeds are a full protein and can be consumed without additional protein sources. Sunflower and sesame seeds travel well and make a good source of protein on long trips or hikes.
Certain vegetables can also be a comparable source of protein when combined with other protein-rich foods. Potatoes are a common protein-filled ingredient in American diet, but are often cooked with fatty oils, such as at fast food restaurants. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables can be built into salads and combined with seeds or legumes to create a complete protein.
Soybeans, a protein-rich legume, are often associated with vegan or vegetarian food as an alternative to meat and dairy because of its versatility and many forms. Soy products include tofu, a white block of processed soy that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Tofu can even be cooked to imitate meat, providing a nutritious alternative for meat-lovers.