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Are you thinking about not eating meat? A plant-based diet is a healthy diet alternative, but you should get enough protein. Here are 20 plant-based protein sources that you shouldn't ignore when starting your new diet.
Plant-rich diets are packed with health benefits. Studies find that they reduce your chances of heart disease, chronic disease, and type 2 diabetes. Most of them also help you control your weight and reduce your need for medications.
SO WHERE DO VEGANS GET PROTEINS FROM?
One of the biggest questions you will be asked when you stop eating meat is where do you get your protein from? Animal products are typically the largest source of protein in most American diets. But one study found that the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for protein is only 2.1 cups a day. Researchers say that in the Western world, the average person eats well beyond this requirement. This same study concluded that protein in vegetarian diets meets the recommended requirements, including the appropriate amount of amino acids.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PROTEINS OF PLANT ORIGIN?
It is easier than you think to find plants with protein. Here is a list of some of the healthiest plant proteins to add to your daily diet.
1 - WHOLE PASTA
A ½ cup of some type of whole grain pasta provides you with 6 grams of protein. If you combine your whole grain pasta with asparagus or spinach, you will double the amount of protein in a meal. Examples of whole wheat pasta include:
- Brown rice pasta
- Whole wheat couscous
- Buckwheat pasta
- Quinoa paste
- Spelled paste
- Corn paste
2 - POPCORN
Although popcorn doesn't have the most protein, just 4 grams per 3 1/2 cups, it is high in fiber. When you combine the high fiber, protein, and low calorie content of popcorn, it makes a great healthy snack for plant-based eaters.
3 - OATS
Oatmeal is an inexpensive whole grain to add to your diet. Half a cup of oatmeal for breakfast gives you 17 grams of protein. If you add a cup of almond milk with 2 grams of protein to your oatmeal, you increase your protein to 19 grams. That's a great way to start your morning.
4 - POTATOES
Potatoes have no respect. It's easy to overlook this vegetable as not so healthy. But the humble potato is not only versatile, it also packs 2 grams of protein per unit. When you add a couple of potatoes to your meal, you are adding healthy protein and fiber.
Sweet potatoes contain slightly less protein than regular variations, but they do contain antioxidants responsible for fighting free radicals and toxins.
5 - EDAMAME
It is a young soybean that is eaten directly from the pod. Edamame can be steamed, roasted, or microwaved. Drizzle some olive oil over the seeds and add a pinch of kosher salt; cook in the microwave for three minutes.
Enjoy edamame as a savory appetizer or an evening snack. It packs in 11 grams of protein per half cup, so it's a great way to get some protein.
6 - SPINACH
This dark green leafy vegetable is crunchy with a spicy flavor. Whether you steam it, sauté it, or eat it raw, you'll get 3 grams of protein for every half cup of spinach.
Add a couple of spinach leaves to your morning smoothie for some extra vitamins K, A, C, B6, and B2. Spinach is also rich in folic acid, manganese, and calcium.
7 - TOFU
Tofu is made from soy milk bean curd that has been pressed into blocks. It comes in a soft, firm or extra firm block. Tofu contains 15 grams of protein per half cup. It has a mild flavor, but you can add spices or sauces to it for more flavor. You can also fry it in strips for dipping. Tofu makes a great mid-afternoon snack or main course for dinner.
8 - AVOCADO (AVOCADO)
Avocados add healthy protein and fat to your diet. You can eat them raw or make guacamole, a spicy sauce for tortilla chips or carrots. Whether you dress your avocado up or down, they are incredibly versatile. You can even make a chocolate substitute dessert with avocados. That is versatility.
9 - TEMPEH
Tempeh is often called the closest relative of tofu. It has more protein than tofu, 20 grams per half cup. Tempeh comes from cooked and fermented soybeans. Once this mixture is pressed into a block, it is called tempeh. Some people say that tempeh tastes like mushrooms. You can grill it, sauté it, or eat it raw crumbled in your salad.
Asparagus is often thought of as a spring vegetable. Fortunately, you can buy it year-round at most supermarkets. This vegetable is rich in antioxidants, folic acid, fiber, and protein. Some gardeners like to grow asparagus in their backyard. It is a perennial plant that appears every year in spring. Ask your local garden store if they sell asparagus and try growing it in your backyard.
11 - DRIED APRICOTS (DAMASKS)
Dried fruits are usually more nutritious than raw ones. This is the case of dried apricots. Half a cup of dried apricots contains four and a half grams of protein. This sweet dried fruit is a great alternative to candy or potato chips.
12. PAINTED BEANS
Pinto beans are rich in fiber and protein. Like other legumes, you should cook dry beans before eating them, unless you buy canned pinto beans. They can be used in soups, sauces, and even hamburgers. They're very inexpensive, so save some in your pantry when you want a quick protein dish.
Like all legumes, lentils are packed with fiber and protein. They come dry, but simply cook them for 20 minutes to soften. After cooking, lentils can be added to soups, salads, or eaten as a garnish. You can also wrap them in a tortilla for a delicious Mexican veggie burrito.
14. BLACK BEANS
Black beans are another inexpensive legume that is packed with protein and fiber. Like its cousin the lentil, black beans are dried, but you can also buy them canned. Black beans add flavor to salads, soups, side dishes, and sauces. Save extra cans of black beans for an easy meal.
During the last decade, chickpeas have gained popularity. When mixed with lemon juice, garlic, and cumin, chickpeas make a delicious sauce called hummus. Hummus is a high-protein sauce for pita chips, carrots, or celery. If you're not interested in making hummus, use chickpeas straight from the can in your salad, in soups, or dressings in other side dishes.
Some people like to make chickpeas crisp. Sprinkle the chicken peas with salt, spices, and olive oil. Then roast them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. These crispy chickpeas are a healthier alternative to potato chips.
16 - PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds give you an impressive 25 grams of protein per half cup. These crunchy little seeds also contain zinc, magnesium, and healthy fats. You can buy these at most stores, but check to see that they are of good quality and organic. Non-organic brands often use chemicals in pumpkin seed processing.
17 - HEMP SEEDS
Small but powerful describe hemp seeds. These little seeds are packed with protein and add a unique flavor to cookies, cakes, cereals, and smoothies. One downside to hemp is that if you overeat, it can lead to diarrhea. Some people are known to have other side effects, such as a sore throat, nausea, high blood pressure, and sometimes a fast heartbeat. Therefore, be careful about the amount of hemp you consume.
18 - CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds are another little seed with significant potential. They contain fiber, magnesium and omega3, the same that is found in fatty fish. You can sprinkle chia seeds in smoothies, oatmeal, or a lettuce salad. Some people even add them to their drinks.
19 - FLAX SEEDS
Flax seeds are often called a superfood. As part of the list of highest protein seeds, flax seeds also boost a variety of vitamins and minerals such as:
Add flax seeds to your morning cereal or salad dressing at lunch. You can use flax seeds in desserts that call for nuts.
20 - PEANUTS
The humble peanut has 38 grams of protein per cup. They add healthy fats to your plant-based diet. Slice, chop, or sprinkle over your bowl of morning cereal for extra protein and a nutty flavor. You can also make your peanut butter.
Put a cup of peanuts in a food processor. Add a little coconut oil and salt. Blend until creamy. Spread on celery or whole wheat bread for your midday meal.
FINAL REFLECTIONS ON HOW TO INCLUDE PLANT PROTEINS IN YOUR VEGAN DIET
Plant-based proteins are natural to include in your diet. Choose from legumes, seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, or whole grains. Plant proteins are versatile and often fit your budget. Saute, broil, grill, or eat them raw. Combining these plant-based proteins can increase your daily protein levels. So when someone asks you where you get your protein from on a meatless diet, tell them you get a lot of protein from all the delicious plants you eat.