A vegetarian diet can be rich in protein, even without dietary supplements. Protein maintains healthy muscles, organs and immune systems while acting as a kind of back-up plan to provide the body with energy when the body runs out of carbohydrates. When relying on a vegetarian diet for protein, focus on consuming whole food products because they are a complete package of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
Protein can be found in all plant foods, including vegetables, legumes, soy products, grains, nuts and seeds. Combining these different groups can also pack a powerful protein punch for the vegetarian diet.
The vegetables that are most rich in protein are spinach, broccoli and potatoes, but it can be found in varying degrees in all vegetables. Not all protein-rich vegetables have essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, so many vegetarians combine their vegetables with grains, legumes or soy products to boost protein intake.
Almost all whole grains and brown rice contain grain protein. Whole grains can be found in a variety of products on the market, such as bread, cereal, baked goods and pastas. How the grain is processed from its raw form into cereal or flour affects its nutritional value and cooking time.
Legumes with protein include beans, peas and lentils. Most products in the legume category are easy to incorporate into salads, pastas, sandwiches and soups. Although some legumes may lack the powerful levels of amino acids found in other food, they are packed with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron.
Most soy products are manufactured and fortified with protein supplements, including products like tofu, miso and tempeh. This category can include meat substitutes, which should be limited if following a protein-rich diet. The addition of manufactured soy products to a high protein vegetarian diet can help detoxify the body and aid in disease prevention.
Nuts and Seeds Protein
Nuts and seeds are usually added as a topping or to accent a particular dish or as sides, snacks and dressings for meals. Nuts and seeds are cholesterol-free and heart-healthy, but are not packed with enough protein to be a large source of protein by themselves.
There are many ways to combine protein groups to give your vegetarian diet a maximum protein effect. Some examples include combining grains and legumes in black beans and rice dish; serving lentil soup with a portion of whole wheat crackers; adding vegetables and legumes in a refried beans and corn tortillas meals. Whole grain pasta can be combined with kidney beans and toasted almonds. Whole wheat toast with nut butters like almond or cashew butter can be an enjoyable change from peanut butter and jelly.