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7 BEST PLANT-BASED SOURCES OF PROTEIN.

7 BEST PLANT-BASED SOURCES OF PROTEIN.

protein

When you hear the word “protein,” you likely think of a chicken breast or a hunk of steak. Well, meat is one of the best sources of protein and a very common concern for vegetarians and vegans is that they may lack sufficient protein intake. However, many experts agree that a well-planned meatless diet can provide all the nutrients you need, including protein. A shift away from meat is getting easier with more fortified and nutritious plant-based foods available and more and more people are interested in adapting to a vegetarian or vegan diet or reducing their intake of meat. That said, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others, and new and older studies alike suggest that higher protein diets can promote muscle strength, feelings of fullness, weight loss and various other health benefits.

 

Here are 7 of the best plant-based proteins to start incorporating into your meals, whether you’re looking to get rid of meat completely or are simply looking to diversify your protein options.

LENTILS

1. LENTILS: According to nutritionists, lentils and other legumes (such as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds) offer a full protein package. They’re rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and can provide up to 9 gms of protein per serving, which is ½ cup cooked legumes. They also contain antioxidant-rich polyphenols, which a study published in 2017 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences says have anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. Furthermore, the type of fiber found in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, which can help promote a healthy gut. Lentils may also reduce your chance of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight, and certain types of cancer. In addition, lentils are rich in folate, manganese, and iron. They also contain a hearty dose of antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds.

How to consume: They can be used in a variety of dishes, ranging from fresh salads to hearty soups and spice-infused porridge.

CHICKPEAS

2. CHICKPEAS: Chickpeas are legumes that are rich in protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fatty acids. A ½-cup serving of chickpeas has about 7gms of protein. Kidney, black, and most other varieties of beans also contain high amounts of protein per serving. Most types of beans contain about 15 gms of protein per cooked cup. They’re also excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, and several beneficial plant compounds. Moreover, several studies show that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can help decrease cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and even reduce belly fat. 

 

How to consume: Chickpeas can be eaten hot or cold, and are highly versatile with plenty of recipes available online. They can, for example, be added to stews and curries, or spiced with paprika and roasted in the oven. One can add hummus, which is made from chickpea paste, to a sandwich for a healthful, protein-rich alternative to butter or any dips.

TOFU

3. TOFU: Soy contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a wholesome protein source. Soy is at the root of several types of foods, including soy milk, edamame, miso, tempeh, and soy nuts, giving you plenty of ways to incorporate soy products into your diet. It’s the main ingredient in tofu too, which should be on the top of your list of meat substitutes. One slice, which is 85 gms or 3 ounces, offers 8 gms of protein. It also contains potassium and iron. Soy products don’t have the best reputation — you may have heard that soy can lead to breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, that link was found in animals and doesn’t appear to be an issue for humans, which is why their experts say it’s safe and advisable to enjoy soy products. Tofu and other soy products also contain good levels of calcium and iron, which makes them healthful substitutes for dairy products.

How to consume: The great thing about tofu is that it’s a great addition to stir-fries and one-pot recipes you can roast in the oven. Then, they can be enjoyed on their own or added to sandwiches and salads. Tofu doesn’t have much taste of its own, but it easily absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it’s prepared with.

NUTS

4. NUTS, NUT BUTTERS: Nuts, seeds, and their derived products are great sources of protein. One ounce (28 grams) contains 5–7 grams of protein, depending on the variety. Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fiber and healthy fats, along with iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and certain B vitamins. They also contain antioxidants, among other beneficial plant compounds. When choosing which nuts and seeds to buy, keep in mind that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in nuts. Therefore, it’s best to reach for raw, unblanched versions whenever possible. Also, try opting for natural nut butters to avoid the oil, sugar, and excess salt often added to many popular brands. In addition to protein, nuts are good sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol levels. And thanks to the many options — including almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts — it’s easy to add a variety to your diet. 

How to consume: Sprinkle them on salads, in smoothies, or on top of veggies for that extra crunch.  You can use nut butters as a spread on toast, muffin toppings or cookies.

QUINOA

5. QUINOA: Though it’s technically a seed, quinoa is commonly referred to as a whole grain (gluten-free) and can be used in place of other grains like rice. One cup of cooked quinoa offers 8 gms of protein and 5 gms of satiating fiber. Not to mention that quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all essential nine amino acids. Quinoa is also a good source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. 

How to consume: Enjoy quinoa throughout the day — in the morning in milk like you would enjoy a breakfast cereal, for lunch as the protein in your salad, and at dinner in place of pasta. Nevertheless, similarly to more commonly known grains, they can be prepared or ground into flour.

6. CHIA SEEDS: Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein that contains 2 grams of protein per tablespoon. They’re derived from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. These little seeds contain high levels of iron, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They’re also incredibly versatile, thanks to their mild taste and ability to absorb water and form a gel-like substance which makes them an easy addition to a variety of recipes. 

How to consume: Try adding chia seeds to smoothies, sprinkling them on top of a plant-based yogurt, or soaking them in water or almond milk to make a pudding.

OATS

7. OATS AND OATMEAL: You should begin your day with a healthy breakfast option that offers plenty of benefits. And oats do just that! Oats, scientifically known as Avena sativa, are a cereal grain that have gotten a lot of attention because of their high dietary fiber content, phytochemicals, and nutritional value. Eating oats is an easy and delicious way to add protein to any diet. Half a cup (40 grams) of dry oats provides approximately 5 grams of protein and 4 gms of fiber. Oats also contain magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and folate which is good for our skin and hair too. Although oats are not considered a complete protein, they do contain higher quality protein than other commonly consumed grains like rice and wheat. 

How to consume: You can use oats in a variety of recipes ranging from oatmeal and probiotic drinks to veggie burgers. They can also be turned into flour and used for baking cookies, breads and biscuits.

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