By Wendy Humphris ROHP
If you’re like most people, you may think that the best place to get protein is in meat. That’s the question every vegetarian/vegan gets — “but where do you get your protein?” It’s painfully aware that people may not know of non-meat protein options, so I’d love to share some of those with you today.
Plant-based protein is just that -- protein found in plant-based foods. So, where does this protein come from? What foods contain it?
Here are a few plant-based foods that are excellent protein sources...
Hemp seeds contain 10g of protein per 2 tablespoons, and this comes with plenty of healthy fat to help the protein absorb. You can add hemp seeds to your smoothies, use it on top of a salad, add it to any dessert or you can even use it to make hemp seed milk.
Seeds are low calorie foods that are rick in fiber and heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein that contain 2 gm of protein per tablespoon.
Try adding chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkling them on top of a plant based yogurt, or soaking them in water or almond or coconut milk to make a pudding.
One cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein, which can already be enough for an entire meal! You can eat lentils on its own, you can add it to salads, you can even turn it into vegetarian burgers.
Per cup quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, which makes it perfect to add to your meals. Use it as a substitute for rice, add on your salads, make a vegetable quinoa bowl with egg for breakfast... quinoa is versatile, and you can find a place to pop it into nearly any meal.
Some of my favourites are walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews. One fourth of a cup already contains about 8 grams of protein. They’re also rich in minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats. You can eat a handful as a snack or incorporate them into all sorts of dishes.
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
Soy products are among the richest sources of protein in a plant-based diet. The protein content varies with how the soy is prepared?
* NOTE, soy products should always be GMO free and organic. Soy should be taken in minimally and not used as a consistent source of protein.
Cooked chickpeas are high in protein, contain around 7.25 gms per 1/2 cup.
Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans can be eating hot or cold, and are highly versatile with plenty of recipes available, like this one. They can, for example, be added to stews and curries, or spiced with paprika and roasted in the oven.
A person can add hummous, which is made from chickpea past, to a sandwich for a healthier, protein-rich alternative to butter or mayo.
Spirulina is a blue or green algae that contains around 8 gm of protein per 2 tablespoons. It is a also rich in nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins - although not Vitamin B12 - and manganese.
Spirulina can be purchased online or at your health food store in a powder or supplement. It can be added to water, smoothies or fruit juice (I prefer supplement capsules).
Many dark-coloured, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein. Eaten alone, these foods are not enough to meet daily protein requirements, but a few vegetable snacks can increase protein intake, particluarly when combined with other protein-rich foods.
A large baked potato offers 8 gm of protein per serving. Potatoes are also high in other nutrients, such as potassium or Vitamin C.
Add 2 tablespoons of hummous for a flavourful snack that is healthier than butter c0vered potatoes and increases the protein content. 2 tablespoons of hummous contains about 3 gm of protein.
If you are trying to lose weight, it's not advised to eat potatoes regularly due to their conversion to starches/sugars in our system, but they are not to be dismissed when trying to eat clean and healthy.
Going vegan or vegetarian requires some planning. With the right protein-based plant food, however, people who avoid animal products can eat balanced diets that support a healthy body and reduce the risks of some diseases.
It's important to discuss dietary portions with a nutritionist, since vegan or vegetarian diets may lack some vital nutrients, necessitating the use of dietary supplements or learning how to include certain foods that are high in those needed nutrients.
Whether you eat meat or not, adding these plant-based protein sources into your meals is something you can do easily.
Want more help exploring a clean eating, plant-based, vegetarian or even a vegan diet?
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Wendy Humphris, ROHP
I’m a holistic nutritionist and I transform health for a living.