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Yes, You Can Get the Protein You Need From a Plant-Based Diet

Yes, You Can Get the Protein You Need From a Plant-Based Diet

There’s a long list of vegetables that contain ample amounts of protein, though only a handful are “complete,” meaning that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids found in animal proteins. But if you eat a well-balanced, vegetable-centric diet, you can in fact enjoy meals that pack a solid punch of protein. 

These foods can help you meet your protein needs while delivering plenty of flavor, variety, and other necessary nutrients to your diet. 

Broccoli: A cup of broccoli contains 2 grams of protein (and just 20 calories). It’s also loaded with good-for-you nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t skip the stalks. Peel them lightly, cut into thin slices, then add them to salads or toss them in olive oil and roast them alongside the florets. Try it this week in our Spicy Thai-Style Beef with Broccoli and Basmati Rice. 

Buckwheat: Don’t be confused by the name, this naturally gluten-free seed is not a type of wheat. It’s one of an elite group of vegetables that qualify as a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s also an excellent source of  manganese and dietary fiber. Eat it as an alternative to rice, swap buckwheat flour for all-purpose in your pancakes, or enjoy a bowl of Japanese soba noodles made from buckwheat.

Legumes: Arguably one of the best meat substitutes, beans and lentils are packed with protein—a whopping 12 grams in a cup of pinto beans. That’s more than what you’ll find in an ounce of beef. Try them this week in our vegetarian Pinto Bean and Hominy Pozole Rojo with Warm Tortillas and our vegan White Bean and Mushroom Cassoulet with Parsley–Red Onion Salad.

Nuts: We like almonds, cashews, and pistachios for their combination of high protein, high fiber, and healthy fat—a triple threat for satiety, blood sugar regulation, and long-lasting energy. Grab a handful for a snack or sprinkle some cashews onto dishes like our Shrimp Pad Thai, where 2 tablespoons of the nuts deliver 3 grams of protein. 

Quinoa: Like buckwheat, quinoa is another complete-protein pseudocereal; ½ cup cooked quinoa boasts 8 grams of protein. Although it’s used like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed, which is why its protein content blows that of grains out of the water. It’s like throwing a steak in your grain bowl. 

Seeds: Tiny-but-mighty, seeds are the eggs of the vegetable world. These storehouses of energy are loaded with protein—5 grams in a single ounce of chia seed—as well as sources of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and essential minerals. 

Soy: This complete protein comes in many forms, from seed (edamame), to milk, to tofu and more, and is many a vegetarian’s favorite protein source. And for good reason: its delicious, subtle flavor plays well with others, and a single ounce of tofu offers 6 grams of high-quality protein. 

Spinach: Popeye had the right idea when he binged on this leafy green. Nutrient-packed spinach is full of protein (5 grams in 1 cup of the cooked greens), iron, and vitamin K and can easily be added to salads, soups, stews, and even smoothies. 

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