Bygone are the days where our only protein source comes from animals. More and more plant protein products are hitting the market giving us a wider variety of protein selections. I know what you’re thinking, “How can plants be a satisfying way to get my protein for the day?” You’d be surprised how filling a plant proteins can be though. By definition, a whole protein is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for the dietary needs of humans or other animals.
But what are some of the best sources for plant proteins? Here are some of my favorites that can easily be incorporated into almost any diet. Keep in mind, that there are numerous powdered options which contain some of these same ingredients and can be added to your smoothies and shakes, but that’s a whole other topic.
- Lentils are an amazing source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Lentils are considered to be a starchy protein. They can be eaten plain, added to a salad, or as a meat replacement in vegetarian meatloaf, burgers and taco filling.
- Hemp seeds not only contain protein but also contain heart-healthy fats, mainly omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds have a delicious subtly sweet and nutty flavor and are so small that they can easily be added to recipes.They can be added to salads, smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal or added to hummus for a healthy snack.
- Chia seeds are an ancient seed that have been used for centuries and are great to add to meals and foods to thicken naturally, while also boosting the fiber, protein, and healthy fats (mainly omega-3’s). These seeds can be put on cereal or oatmeal for a crunch, soaked for at least 30 minutes in almond milk for a basic chia seed pudding or added in water for a chia bubble water, a refreshing and hydrating beverage.
- Quinoa is a gluten-free grain (technically a seed) that is used as a carbohydrate but also contains protein and fiber. Quinoa has gotten a lot of attention lately so I don’t need to tell you all the uses, but a few suggestions are to use this grain in place of rice, to top veggies (raw or cooked) or use as a hot or cold cereal combined with nut milk and fruit.
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and more are not only rich in minerals, Vitamin E, and healthy fats but are also protein rich. Nuts are very versatile and can be used in salads, added to cereals and granola, mixed into baked goods recipes or eaten plain for a snack.
- Soy rich foods such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame all offer a complete protein containing all amino acids.Tempeh is the most nutritious in this group and is different from other soy foods as it contains natural occurring healthy bacteria from the fermentation process. These products can be used in stir-fry dishes, as a substitute for meat in almost any recipe and added to salads for a boost of protein.
- Spirulina is incredibly rich in protein and one of the few sources of plant-based protein that is mostly protein by dry weight (about 70%). It has subtly sweet and nutty taste but with hints seaweed flavor in the background. This powder can be blended with smoothies and can be added to snack or dessert recipes.
Clearly, there are numerous options for your protein intake and many can be mingled right into your existing diet. So try some of these to help diversify your meals and continue exploring other plant proteins as a way to keep things fresh and healthy.
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