Let’s talk about protein for a few minutes, starting with some pretty fabulous foods with essential amino acids that your body needs to be at its best at all times. For starters, in case you’re not sure what amino acids are, let me tell you what they are and why you need them. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules. Your body can’t produce these on its own,and they must be obtained through your diet for optimal health and wellness. This doesn’t mean you need to overload on protein by any means. It simply means you need to eat certain foods that have all nine amino acids, so you can be sure to have your bases covered. The nine essential amino acids are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, lysine, and histidine. Many foods, typically animal sources, have all essential amino acids. Yet, there are also many vegan foods that have all essential amino acids too. Check out my 7 favorite foods with essential amino acids and I think you’ll see it’s quite easy to get your protein with a few tasty bites!
Eggs are one of the best foods with essential amino acids you can eat. Not only are they a vegetarian source of protein, but they’re also chock full of nutrients, outside of protein. Containing Vitamin B12, B6, choline, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and selenium, eggs are a great source of a variety of nutrients. Cook them any way you like and whenever possible, please do buy organic or pastured eggs so you can be sure you’re getting the best eggs possible.
Spirulina is my top source of amino acids in a vegan form. This complete protein is so powerful, you only need 1 teaspoon to use per day to get in your daily dose of nutrients. Spirulina is a deep sea algae just brimming with beta-carotene, Vitamin B12, and 4 grams of protein per teaspoon! I use it in all my smoothies and hope you’ll try it too!
3. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are such a wonderful source of all essential amino acids. Plus, they’re so filling! Hemp seeds are deliciously sweet, slightly nutty and oh so tasty! They’re incredibly rich in protein, with 11 grams per 3 tablespoons, plus they have added magnesium, Vitamin E, B vitamins, fiber, iron, zinc, Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. I love to sprinkle them on anything and never show any signs of protein deficiency with hemp seeds in my vegetarian diet.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is one of those foods I’ve picked up and put back down for years, yet I always come back to it. It is a wonderful source of all essential amino acids, with almost 20 grams of protein per single cup. I buy the non-fat plain variety for no fat and no added sugar, and always buy organic to avoid excess hormones and to ensure the cows are treated humanely. Greek yogurt is a wonderful vegetarian source of protein, plus probiotics, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B6. It is also a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium.
5. Chia Seeds
Many people don’t know that chia seeds are also a complete source of vegan protein and have all essential amino acids as well as hemp seeds. Chia seeds are chock full of nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, calcium, potassium, zinc and folate. I sprinkle chia seeds on almost anything I can think of. I love that they fill me up and make a fun topping to whatever they are added to!
6. Vegan Protein Powder
I know many people shy away from vegan protein powders, but I actually love it. Why? Because vegan protein powders, such as Sunwarrior brand, Garden of Life Raw Meal and Garden of Life Raw Protein are some of the cleanest, most sustainable sources of raw vegan protein, with no additives of any kind. Both brands are also strictly made to avoid contaminants, pesticides, GMOs and more. They are also both USDA certified organic and have more amino acids than any other type of raw protein powder out there. Most all other protein powders have fillers, additives, unhealthy sweeteners and all animal protein powders are acidic to the body. I love using vegan protein powders in smoothies, or stirred with some almond milk to make a quick pudding on the go.
7. Wild Fish
Lastly, my final favorite food with all essential amino acids is wild fish. Wild fish is excellent for you, as long as you’re careful about what kind you buy. I always buy wild Alaskan fish, and consume it moderately. Fish is a great source of lean protein, essential and non-essential amino acids, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D and E.
Not sure if you’re getting enough protein? Some common signs of protein deficiency due to low intake of essential amino acids are: fatigue, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, agitation, bloodshot eyes, slow growth, anemia, reproductive disorders, poor sleep, brain fog and depression. Try adding in more of these foods, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or an omninvore. They are some of the best sources for your body that you can eat. What’s your favorite way to get protein into your diet?