I wasn’t always a vegetarian. Back in the day, I used to be seated right beside some of you, gnawing away on that rib bone, masticating that filet mignon, devouring a double double from my (former) favorite burger place, In-n-Out. I was an animal-eating carnivore most of my life—just like over 90% of the population. Then I had some blood work done and got a glimpse of my cholesterol levels. Yikes!
Here’s the thing: I was never what you would call a BIG meat eater. More often than not, I was just as interested in the vegetable and salad portion of my meal as the animal protein part. And once I’d done further research about the contributing factors of high cholesterol (mine, by the way, was closing in on 300) and unhealthy weight gain—namely: saturated fats—it made perfect sense to gradually cut down on the meats. Years before I became a full-time vegetarian, I often would go days without consuming any animal protein. My palette, as well as some deeper region of my subconscious, was changing, sounding an alarm: Reduce your saturated fats or die!
Okay, Mike, you can stop with the dramatics. But it was a wake-up call, and my unhealthy cholesterol and weight gain (I was up over 200 pounds—far too heavy for my barely 5’ 11’’ frame) forced me to do something else—discover healthier eating options. More to the point: I needed to reduced saturated fats, which meant limit the consumption of animal proteins. The answer:
Here are some of the best sources of vegetable protein that I incorporate into my daily eating routine. Eat as much of this stuff as you can and you will not only get the necessary amount of protein into your diet, but tons of fiber (a good thing!). All without those harmful saturated fats; instead filling up with the good fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
I eat nuts every day—mostly almonds, but all nuts have a decent amount of vegetable protein. In addition to almonds, eat walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, even peanuts. They have anywhere from 6-8 grams of protein and 3.0 grams of fiber. I also suggest trying some of the butters. Almond butter is delicious and has 8.0 gms of protein per serving.
I love Mexican food, and eat it at least twice a week. I’ve found that you can replace just about any of the meat dishes with healthy black beans (7.0 gms protein/7.0 gms fiber) or refried beans (be sure to check if they are made with lard, in they are, opt out). There are dozens of varieties of beans (see one of my previous blog posts, You Don’t Know Beans…or Do You?); pinto, navy, garbanzo—add them to salads or eat as a side dish. Most have around 6-8 gms of protein and about the same amounts of fiber.
And don’t forget lentils. These tasty tidbits are loaded with vegetable protein—10.0 gms. And 9.0 gms of fiber.
I eat a high-protein, whole grain cereal every other day. Kashi makes excellent products. Try their Go Lean. It has 13.0 gms of protein per serving, also 10.0 gms fiber. I mix mine with their Good Friends (5.0 gms protein/12.0 gms fiber) for a vegetarian protein and fiber blast (pun intended!) The days I don’t eat whole grain cereals, I have some toasted whole grain bread (4-6 gms protein; shop around and read labels, some have more protein than others. I recommend Milton's) with almond butter. You can see how the vegetable protein is adding up, huh?
Pastas, especially whole grain pastas, are another great source of vegetable protein. Most have at least 6-8 gms, while some go as high as 12-15 gms. Again, read labels, and you will be pleasantly surprised by all of the healthy vegetable protein options available to you.
I also eat oatmeal (8.0 gms protein/ 6.0 gms fiber) every day. And wild rice will get you around 5.0 gms of vegetable protein per serving.
Not all veggies are created equal. Some have more protein than others. Here are the ones you should look for when looking to increase your vegetable protein consumption:
I eat edamame, or soybeans, (11.0 gms protein/ 6.0 gms fiber) several times a week. I like to mix in another vegetable, usually broccoli (5.0 gms protein/ 4.0 gms fiber), add a little olive oil, salt, pepper. How’s that for veggie protein? Also, soy chips are a wonderful source of protein: 6.0 gms--I like Glenny's and Gen soy. And Dr Soy makes a tasty soy bar (11 gms protein) that I devour most days.
Avocado: (4.0 gms protein/8.0 gms fiber)
Peas: (5.0 gms protein/ 4.0 gms fiber)
Corn: (4.5 gms protein/3.0 gms fiber)
Lima beans: (6.0 gms protein/4.0 gms fiber)
Brussels sprouts: (4.0 gms protein/3.0 gms fiber)
Artichoke hearts: (4.0 gms protein/4.0 gms fiber)
Asparagus: (4.0 gms protein/3.0 gms fiber)
This is by no means a complete list, and a lot of it is personal preference. But, as you can see, the variety of vegetable proteins available to you are endless. And the best part—they are low in saturated fats, high in good fats, loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that contribute to a longer, happier, skinnier, healthier life.
As always, you can watch me talk about all of these healthy topics at my video website, livelife365.com