It’s well documented that vegetarians have less heart disease and colorectal cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes and obesity, but many wonder if a vegetarian diet can provide adequate protein. A new study however, puts this question to rest, finding that vegetarians are not lacking in this nutrient.

Although most plant and dairy-based foods do not contain all nine essential amino acids in the right ratios to satisfy the body’s protein needs, vegetarians can get them all if by incorporating a broad spectrum of foods into your diet. Furthermore, since the body stores amino acids and uses them when they are needed, it is not necessary to consume all the essential ones at every meal. The following foods are great protein sources.

1. Fruit and dried fruit

Fruit is another food category not commonly associated with protein, but it does contain some. Avocados are the highest fruit source of protein and are considered by some to be an extraordinary superfood. Raisins also contain almost 5 grams of protein per cup.

2. Vegetables

Most people do not think of vegetables as good sources of protein, but one cup of spinach has over 5 grams of this nutrient and a 7 oz. baked potato offers almost 9 grams of protein. Other vegetables high in protein include brussel sprouts and asparagus. Vegetables are also incredibly beneficial in other ways, being high in vitamins and minerals. Artichoke also packs almost 6 grams of protein per cup.

3. Beans and Peas

While all legumes contain protein, some are higher in starch than others. Lentils are an excellent choice, as they contain 18 grams of protein, which is almost equivalent to the amount in 3 ounces of steak. Black beans, peas and chickpeas are also good choices because they are less starchy than kidney, northern, navy and lima beans. Buy the dried beans and cook them yourself to avoid the BPA present in the linings of canned goods. Split peas also contain 16 grams of protein per cup.

4. Whole Grains

Other whole grains include foods such as brown rice, bulgur, and millet, along with oats, barley. Quinoa is another grain which is a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. All grains are low in fat, high in fibre and contain key vitamins and minerals. Amaranth also packs 9 grams of protein per cup.

5. Nuts
Although nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts are high in fat, it is mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fat. A good snack would be one-fourth cup of almonds, which has 8 grams of protein. It is best to eat them raw rather than roasted. Pistachios also ack 6 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, and boost levels of lutein, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol.

6. Seeds

Eat some sunflower, sesame or pumpkin seeds daily, as they are nutrition-dense powerhouses that contain protein along with other important nutrients. Pumpkin Seeds for example, are the perfect snack for vegetarians who wish to up their protein intake with a delicious and low-fat food. Seeds are best eaten raw as well.

7. Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese

Greek yogurt contains much less sugar but up to twice the amount of protein as regular yogurt. Depending on the brand, it contains between 13 to 18 grams of protein. Fat free cottage cheese is one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians as it boosts 31 g of protein per cup as well as vitamin B12. Since Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient found only in meat and dairy products, it may be a good idea for vegetarians to drink organic milk or eat Greek yogurt to boost their B12 levels.

8. The Incredible Egg

This formerly maligned food is a great source of protein, along with other key nutrients like carotenoids and choline. However, like dairy foods, it is best to buy the organic variety.

Millions of people around the world are enjoying the health benefits of the vegetarian diet. The critical point to reiterate for those on this diet is to eat a variety of foods to ensure the body takes in all the essential amino acids.