Protein is an essential nutrient needed for muscle growth and repair, in addition to maintenance of normal cell and body functions. The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Eating meat, dairy products and protein powders is not necessary to getting the amount of protein you need. Grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are quality sources of protein to include in a healthy and varied diet.
Grains are most commonly known for their high carbohydrate content. However, unrefined grains provide a quality source of protein as well. One cup of cooked quinoa supplies 9 g of protein, and a cup of cooked brown rice provides 5 g. Bread made from unrefined grains such as whole wheat flour is also a source of protein, with 2 slices providing up to 5 g of protein.
Seeds are a quality source of protein to include in a healthy diet. Sunflower seeds supply 6 g of the macro-nutrient in a quarter-cup serving. Combine seeds with nuts and dried fruit in a trail mix for snacking, or sprinkle over salads to increase protein intake as needed.
Nuts are a source of protein and healthy fats in the diet. Almonds and cashews provide a non-animal source of protein with approximately 8 g and 5 g per a quarter-cup serving, respectively. Enjoy nuts as snacks, sprinkled on salads or cereals, or baked into breads and muffins for a protein boost.
Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are high sources of protein and fiber as well as a myriad of vitamins and minerals. Soy is a type of legume that provides an alternative to animal protein and is often eaten as soy beans, tofu, soy flour, soy milk or texturized vegetable protein. A four-ounce serving of firm tofu has approximately 11 g of protein, and a cup of soybeans has a generous 29 g of protein. One cup of cooked lentils provides 18 g of protein, while a cup of cooked black beans contains 15 g of protein.