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Even though I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian, I find that I naturally gravitate towards a mostly meatless diet. I’ve chosen not to eat red meat; and while I do eat chicken, turkey and fish, I find that it's not something I typically choose to prepare for myself during the week. This can most likely be explained by my irrational fear of/issues with raw meat, but that's another story for another day. Anway, because I don’t usually get protein directly from meat, I try to make sure I am getting an adequate amount for my body from other sources.
Since it is National Nutrition Month® after all, I thought I’d do a little reading to educate myself on the different sources of protein available and share my favorite non-meat protein sources with you lovely people!
The first thing I learned is that there is a difference between a complete protein and an incomplete protein based on the amount of essential amino acids the protein source contains. Cheese, eggs, fish, meat, milk, poultry and yogurt are all examples of foods with complete protein; while beans, corn, grains, nuts, peas and seeds are all sources of incomplete protein.
I also found that that you can combine two complementary proteins to create a complete protein. This is something I do all the time--just didn't know there was a name for it until now! A few examples of these types of combinations would be grains with legumes, grains with dairy, dairy with seeds and legumes with seeds. (source // source)
All of this is so interesting to me! It only took a little research, though, for me to discover how much there still is for me to learn.
Without further adieu, here are my top 3 favorite meat-free sources of protein:
- Quinoa: Don’t lie—you botched the pronunciation at first too. Quinoa (keen-wah) is unique because it is the only plant based source of complete protein. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein. I adore quinoa and use it as a side, salad topper, and much more.
- Greek yogurt: I have a greek yogurt most every afternoon of the work week. Plain Fage is my most favorite. Did you know one, six-ounce serving contains anywhere from 15 to 20 grams of protein? That’s virtually the same amount as a 3-ounce serving of lean meat!
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are another of my favorite sources of protein. They are very versatile and easy to throw onto a salad or into a soup. One cup packs 15 grams of protein. And they are the main ingredient in hummus--enough said.
I could list many more, from nuts to nutbutters and even vegetables themselves (one cup of cooked spinach has 7 grams of protein!), but I’ll stop here.
Have a great Thursday, friends! Friday is right around the corner :)
What are your favorite sources of protein? Any favorites I left off of my list? How are you celebrating National Nutrition Month? I’d love to hear!