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an image of high protein vegetarian food arranged on a wooden tableProteins are long chains of amino acids that are essential for carrying out various metabolic processes in your body. Amino acids help to breakdown, transport, and store all the nutrients your body needs: fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, water, and carbohydrates. Your body is capable of producing only certain amino acids, so it is essential that you obtain the remaining ones from dietary sources. Research suggests that amino acids can help prevent cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disease, neurological dysfunction, diabetes, infertility, and obesity. Incorporating high protein vegetarian food in your everyday diet is a great way to make sure your body gets enough of these essential amino acids.

Why Are Proteins Essential?

Your tissues, muscles, organs, and hormones are made up of proteins. Your body utilizes the protein you obtain from dietary source to develop and function. It’s for this reason that incorporating protein into your everyday diet is essential to prevent protein deficiency that can cause severe defects in your body. Studies have linked a high-protein diet with numerous health benefits including healthy weight loss, stabilized blood sugar levels, reduced brain fog, improved concentration levels, and increased energy levels. Proteins help promote bone health, support your muscles, and help in nutrient absorption.

Including a range of high-protein foods provides your body access to all nine essential amino acids. Inadequate protein intake can cause you not to get enough of some amino acids in your body, which can lead to health issues. Some of the symptoms associated with protein deficiency include brain fog, sluggish metabolism, mood swings, low energy levels, lowered immunity, unstable blood sugar levels, insomnia, stubborn weight gain, constipation, and difficulty in building muscle mass. The symptoms of protein deficiency and AFS can be closely related. Therefore, a high-protein diet can significantly help in adrenal fatigue recovery. A high-protein diet helps you keep fully satiated and helps you avoid blood sugar spikes, cravings, moodiness, and fatigue.

Health Benefits of High Protein Vegetarian Food

Getting enough protein in your diet is essential, and eating a variety of high protein vegetarian food is a good way to do this. Vegetarian food has many other health benefits as well. Some of the following are health benefits of making sure you are getting enough protein in your diet.

Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar raises the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Including protein-rich foods in your diet prevents spikes in your blood glucose by slowing down the absorption of sugar. Stabilized blood sugar levels keep your appetite and mood in check.

Boosts Muscle Mass

Proteins are essential to the maintenance of healthy muscle mass and to supporting ligaments, tendon, organs, and other body tissues. A protein-rich diet also helps repair damaged tissues and muscles. Therefore, bodybuilders and people actively involved in sports are recommended a high-protein diet to keep their muscles strong and healthy.

Improves Mood

an image of an older woman smiling from eating high protein vegetarian foodCertain high protein vegetarian food such as quinoa and edamame contain nine essential amino acids that naturally help fight mood disorders and anxiety which can be helpful in AFS. Proteins support healthy functioning of neurotransmitters. This helps in the synthesis of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that calm the mind. Deficiency of amino acids can lead to moodiness, anxiety, depression, and weakness.

Weight Management

A high-protein diet keeps you fully satiated throughout the day, reducing any craving which, in turn, help you to maintain your ideal weight. Studies suggest that a controlled calorie intake along with a high-protein diet helps support healthy weight loss. Eating protein causes thermogenesis, a process where your body spends more energy on digesting food, thus burning more calories for weight loss.

Promotes Healthy Brain Function

Proteins are essential for making hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that are crucial for cognitive function. Your brain requires amino acids for maintaining energy levels and concentration. Studies show that amino acid deficiencies can lead to poor cognitive function.

Supports Heart Health

Studies have linked protein-rich diets with reduced risk of heart disease. Protein helps reduce high blood pressure thus supporting heart health. Including high protein vegetarian food in the diet helps prevent diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

How A High-Protein Diet Can Help Stress

Everyday stress can leave you feeling fatigued. Having a protein-rich diet nourishes your body and boosts energy levels, reducing stress-induced fatigue.

The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response System is your body’s natural stress-fighting mechanism. It is an intricate network of six circuits which function in close coordination to help fight stress. There is a pair of walnut-shaped adrenal glands located above your kidneys which is also a part of the response system.

During stressful situations, the NEM signals your adrenals to secrete the anti-stress hormone, cortisol, to deal with stress. However, with constant stress, the adrenals are forced to secrete more cortisol to deal with the condition. With time, your adrenals can become exhausted. As a result, they are no longer able to secrete adequate cortisol. This reduces your body’s natural stress-fighting ability which can lead to adrenal fatigue.

an image of a fatigued woman on the couch who isnt eating enough high protein vegetarian foodWhen you frequently experience extreme fatigue along with symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, difficulty in waking up, low concentration levels, constipation, low energy levels, stubborn weight gain, brain fog, or cravings for salty and fatty food, then chances are high that you might have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

The anti-stress hormone cortisol plays a crucial role in various bodily functions including blood pressure regulation, blood sugar regulation, suppressing the immune system, and metabolism of glucose.

Stress leads to an elevated level of cortisol, initiating your body’s fight or flight response. Several functions occur in your body during this phase which requires more energy. In order to meet your body’s increased energy demands, glucose from stored fat is broken down and released into the bloodstream. To conserve energy, cortisol identifies the body functions that are not critical for the immediate stress response and curbs those functions. This results in the slowdown of your immune system, growth process, digestive system, and reproductive system.

Cortisol reduces lean body mass and muscle mass but increases fat mass to increase your appetite and food intake. The hormone also affects the metabolic system of your body by reducing the quantity of protein stores in most of your cells except those in the liver.

During chronic stress, cortisol continues regulating these activities. With the reduction in lean body mass and muscle mass, your body turns weak. Further, the increase in fat mass leaves you feeling sluggish and fatigued.

With the consumption of high protein vegetarian food, your body and mood gradually return to a healthier state. Studies show that protein intake can help enhance glucose metabolism, boost cognitive function, and improve mood. Regular intake of adequate protein is essential for promoting adrenal health.

However, it is important to understand that not all proteins are healthy. For instance, processed meat is high in sodium and preservatives which can tax your adrenals. High protein vegetarian foods are healthy sources of protein with immense health benefits. A protein-rich diet can help fight stubborn weight gain in people with adrenal fatigue by boosting the secretion of satiety hormones, curbing appetite, stimulating hormones, and improving glucose homeostasis.

Ten High Protein Vegetarian Foods for Superior Health

For vegans and vegetarians, getting a good amount of protein can be tricky. However, there is a range of high protein vegetarian food that you can choose from to keep your energy levels high. Plant-based protein foods are a healthy alternative to animal sources of protein. These ten protein-packed plant-based foods are great choices for your next meal.


Lentils are a cheap and versatile high protein vegetarian food. They are packed with vitamin B, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and folate. The protein in lentils helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes cardiovascular health, aids digestion, balances pH levels, and alkalizes the body.


an image with a variety of beans and high protein vegetarian foodAll varieties of beans including black, kidney, garbanzo, and pinto beans are loaded with fiber and protein that keep you satisfied throughout the day, thus reducing your cravings. They also help control your blood sugar levels. The rich blend of fiber and protein in beans supports your body in absorbing nutrients as well as releasing acids into the bloodstream. This helps to naturally cleanse the digestive tract and enhance your energy levels, beating fatigue. Dried beans need to be soaked prior to using them. Consider adding beans to your soup, pasta, burgers, sauce, and salads. You can even use them in muffins.


Almost all nuts including almonds, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and walnuts are powerhouses of nutrition and protein. They are packed with antioxidants, proteins, fiber, healthy unsaturated fat, magnesium, and riboflavin. Almonds help promote healthy skin, hair, and nails, boost cardiovascular health, enhance energy levels, reduce inflammation, control blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function. Eating a handful of raw soaked almonds before bedtime helps you get the restorative sleep essential for adrenal fatigue recovery. Soaking your nuts and almonds before eating them makes them more easily digestible.

Bee Pollen

Yes, bee pollen makes in this list. You will be surprised to know that bee pollen is fifty percent higher in protein than meat. It is also rich in nutrients, enzymes, amino acids, and sugar. Bee pollen is loaded with therapeutic properties that help in memory loss, constipation, depression, autoimmune disorders, hypertension, and diarrhea. Bee pollen can also be stimulatory so one needs to be careful.

Raw Cheese

Eating raw cheese is a delicious way of incorporating protein into your diet. This protein-rich vegetarian food is packed in gut-friendly bacteria and essential nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorous. Raw cheese helps promote bone health, enhances energy levels, supports weight loss, and maintains a healthy gut. Having a cup of protein-rich raw cheese is a great way to kick-start your day.


Yogurt is a balanced source of fats, protein, vitamins, carbs, minerals, and beneficial probiotics that support a healthy gut microflora, thus promoting digestion and nutrient absorption. It also helps aid weight loss, regulates mood, and boosts the immune system.


Natto is a fermented food high in protein. It is prepared by soaking whole soybeans, steaming them, and then adding health-promoting bacteria to the mixture. Because it is fermented, there is little estrogenic effect. The texture and smell of natto can take some time to get used. However, consider giving this high-protein fermented food a try as it is rich in iron, protein, manganese, copper, vitamin C, vitamin K, and magnesium.

Chia Seeds

A powerhouse of nutrition, chia seeds are a great source of calcium, fiber, and protein. They are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet and are easily absorbed by your body. These healthy seeds, with a nutty texture, can be added to your soups, stews, smoothies, and baked items.


Edamame makes an amazing high protein vegetarian food. Whole immature soybeans, edamame serve as a high source of nutrition for vegans and vegetarians. It contains all the essential nine amino acids that your body requires. Edamame is also rich in several vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin K1, manganese, iron, and copper.


Gluten-free, crunchy, and healthy, quinoa is high in protein and also contains nine essential amino acids. It is loaded with important nutrients including iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, folate, manganese, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Quinoa contains potent flavonoids such as kaempferol and quercetin which have anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and anti-cancer properties.


an image with four people enjoying a meal of high protein vegetarian foodProteins are made of long chains of amino acids that play a crucial role in your body’s metabolic process. As your body is capable of producing only certain types of amino acids, obtaining other amino acids through dietary sources is crucial. However, not all protein is created equal. Animal-based proteins are high in saturated fat and cholesterol which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plant-based foods serve as a healthy source of protein, plus they are high in essential vitamins, minerals, powerful antioxidants, and fiber which help promote great health.

Some of the best high protein vegetarian foods include lentils, beans, bee pollen, raw cheese, natto, yogurt, and chia seeds. Edamame and quinoa contain the nine essential amino acids your body needs. Having a protein-rich diet helps support adrenal health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, boosts muscle mass, improves mood, helps in weight management, promotes brain function, and supports heart health.

© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Animal-based proteins are high in cholesterol and saturated fat which raises the risk of cardiovascular illness. Processed meat contains preservatives which are highly carcinogenic. High protein vegetarian foods are incredible sources of healthy protein which helps promote heart health and provides many other health benefits.