If you are a vegan or a semi-vegetarian on the quest for more protein, look no further than grains. Sure, beans and nuts are rich in plant proteins, but you may not realize how high the amino acid content is in some hearty grains. Many of these high-protein options are more often seen in ethnic cuisine from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Experimenting with new grains can open a world of exciting dishes, packed with protein.
A cup of cooked amaranth has 9 grams of protein. This fine grain has a smooth texture that you would never expect is so high in protein. Amaranth is great for desserts and baking. Make amaranth pancakes or amaranth muffins for whole-grain nutrition and a small, grainy texture you will learn to love. Because amaranth is so unassuming, it is easy to sneak it into creamy dishes, like that of Indian cuisine. Dal is a traditional Indian lentil dish, full of spice and flavor. Add amaranth when preparing dal to increase the variety of amino acids.
One cup of cooked bulgur has 6 grams of protein. This hearty grain is best known as the main ingredient in the Middle Eastern cold salad Tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a high-protein dish, usually consisting of cooked bulgur along with tomato slices, olives, mint, lemon, feta cheese and fresh parsley. Bulgur also makes a great base for homemade veggie burgers or vegetarian chili. Asian stir-fry recipes also recommend serving over cooked, fluffy bulgur.
Quinoa is actually a seed, but you prepare and consume it like a grain. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 9 grams of protein. This chewy grain is very versatile. Have quinoa as a hot breakfast cereal alternative to oatmeal. Prepare it as a spicy, high-protein side dish with black beans and corn. Cooked quinoa can also be mixed in with ground beef or turkey in meat loaf and burgers. This is a great strategy for reducing the saturated fat content while adding fiber and preserving protein. The texture of quinoa is also perfect for stuffed peppers and tomatoes. Use quinoa instead of rice for a more substantial grain.
While several grains offer beneficial protein, you should also make sure to include other sources of protein -- such as meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and beans -- into your diet. That's because grains contain only some of the amino acids your body needs, and getting most or all of your protein from grains might leave you deficient in one or more amino acids. Make sure you consume a varied diet to ensure you're meeting your nutritional needs.