Many researchers and doctors around the world agree that a plant-based diet provides many benefits. It is credited with lowering inflammation in the body and disease prevention. But many people are concerned that a plant-based diet does not provide enough protein, an essential nutrient responsible for fueling the body and a critical component in building body tissue. Unfortunately, a long marketing campaign sending the message that meat is the primary source of protein has led to a lot of misinformation about the quantity of protein found in plants. If you are looking for ways to bring more plant-based foods onto your plate, here are 10 excellent sources of plant-based protein.
Please note that the minimum recommended amount of protein for a sedentary lifestyle is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women, but this amount increases with factors including activity level, general health and age. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how much protein your body needs.
Although seeds are small, they pack a punch when it comes to providing protein. Adding some chia or flax seeds to your fruit smoothie will keep you feeling full for longer. Tossing sesame seeds into your vegetable stir-fry or snacking on sunflower seeds is another easy way to up your protein consumption. One cup of pumpkin seeds provides 12 grams of protein. A couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 11 grams, and even those teeny-tiny poppy seeds add 2 grams in just over a tablespoon.
Although typically cooked like a grain, quinoa is actually a member of the spinach, chard and beet family. The frequent debate about whether it is a vegetable or a grain is somewhat satisfied with the label of pseudocereal, which means it’s not part of the grass family. Whatever you choose to call it, quinoa is a versatile and protein-packed food with over 8 grams per cooked cup.
Once you get the hang of cooking lentils, you’ll find them to be an essential addition to or centerpiece of your diet. They are versatile and tasty. Plus, one cup of lentils provides more than 1/3 of the minimum recommended daily amount of protein at around 18 grams.
Beans rank nearly as high as lentils on the protein scale, and there are myriad options to match any taste profile. Daily value (DV) amounts for one cup look like this: white beans (35%), split peas (33%), pinto beans (31%), kidney beans (31%), black beans (30%), navy beans (30%), chickpeas (29%) and lima beans (29%).
Nuts are a great snack, and they provide both protein and healthy fats. But they also make a nice addition to many recipes. Pick your favorites and experiment. For example, peanuts, almonds and pistachios contain 12 to 14 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. Nut butters are another option for adding protein to your diet. Watch for added salt and sugar when choosing your peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Two tablespoons is considered a serving size of these nut butters.
There are a variety of products sourced from soybeans. Edamame contains about 8 to 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup and can be eaten boiled or shelled. Tofu has long been associated with vegan and vegetarian diets as a protein replacement for good reason. It contains around 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup, and tofu can be added to just about anything, from soup to salads to sandwiches. Tempeh is another soybean-based food that brings 31 grams of protein per cup.
Vegetables should be a priority in any diet. While most offer some protein, veggies also offer a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Peas, however, rate among the highest when looking specifically at protein content, with 8 grams per cup. Plus, they are convenient to toss into most meals.
You’ve probably been lectured before to eat your leafy greens. That’s because they are loaded with nutritional benefits, including 3% to 12% of your daily recommended amount of protein. So load up on spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and collard greens to increase your protein intake.
Unsweetened raw cocoa powder
You may not have expected to see chocolate on the list, but unsweetened raw cocoa powder provides a host of nutritional value, not the least of which is 1 gram of protein per tablespoon. Sprinkle it on fruit or throw it in your smoothies for a delicious protein boost.
Nutritional yeast offers the essential vitamin B12, and a single tablespoon has about 5 grams of protein. Nutritional yeast can be used as a substitute for cheese. Shake it on popcorn, pasta, pizza, soups, potatoes and cooked veggies for a savory flavor and added protein.
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