Proteins are the building blocks of life, they break down in the body into amino acids that promote cell repair and growth. Protein takes much longer time to digest than carbohydrates, which enables you to feel more full for an extended period and on fewer calories, when you eat a high protein meal. This makes a higher-protein a good choice for people who are trying to lose weight. Although animal protein such as eggs, dairy and meat are great sources of protein, unfortunately, they can also have a high level of cholesterol, and saturated fat; which is not very good for the body. Choosing vegan protein sources allows you to maintain a high level of protein per meal, without the negative side effects of consuming too much meat. I personally am not vegan or vegetarian, but I do work my best to consume as many vegan protein sources of food each day, and limiting my overall consumption of meat!
Often, people are not aware that protein can be derived from plants. You might not even know that vegan protein powder is available online just as easily as the traditional whey (milk-based) protein powder! One of the major concerns about vegan and vegetarian diets is the insufficient supply of protein overall. However, experts now agree that vegetarian diets can provide you with all the essential nutrients that your body needs, as there are many plant-based foods which contain a significant amount of protein!
Why Eat Meat-free Meals?
There are several reasons why it is beneficial to eat meat-free meals. Meat-free meals that provide you with the required protein are always cheaper, better for the environment, and lower in calories. A common question that people ask is if meat-free protein sources are “complete”. A complete protein involves the amount of different amino acids, as there are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein.
The body is unable to produce nine of the amino acids on its own, and they are considered “essential amino acids”. To get these nine amino acids, we need to consume them through what we eat (or drink), since we cannot synthesize them ourselves. Therefore, in order to be regarded as “complete,” a protein must contain the nine essential amino acids in a manageable ration.
8 Sources of Protein for Vegetarians
Take a look at these eight plant foods that contain a significant amount of protein for your body to run on!
Foods that belong to the legume family are always a great source of protein for vegetarians, and peas are no exception. A cup of peas contains 7.9 grams of protein, which is about the same as a cup of milk. One of my favorite ways to consume peas in a healthy and tasty fashion is by blending your peas into a pesto sauce. You can blend toasted pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese and fresh mint along with your peas, to make a protein and nutrient filled sauce!
Although most grains contain only a small amount of protein, quinoa is technically a seed and is unique because it contains over 8 grams of protein per cup! This also includes all nine of the essential amino acids that the body requires for growth and repair, but cannot be produced by the body.
Quinoa is amazingly versatile because it could be added to soup, served with brown sugar and fruit as a hot cereal breakfast, and it can be tossed with vegetables and a vinaigrette to produce a refreshing summer salad; amongst many other ways of consuming!
Nuts and Seeds
All nuts contain healthy fats and protein which makes them a valuable part of a meat-free diet. Considering the fact that they are high in calories; (cashews, pistachios, and almonds all contain 160 calories and about 5 or 6 grams of protein per ounce), I recommend that you select varieties that are raw or dry roasted. Peanut and almond butter are also great sources of protein from the “nut” family.
In regards to “nut butters,” always search for brands that have as few ingredients as possible; preferentially the ones with only salt and nuts as ingredients. Apart from the fact that nuts and seeds provide you with healthy fats and fiber, they are also a great source of other minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants. Remember that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in the nuts, this makes the raw and unblanched nuts better.
There are several varieties of beans including: heirloom, pinto, black, white, kidney, etc. One thing that they all have in common is the high amount of protein they have! For example, two cups of kidney beans contain about 26 grams of protein! Several studies have shown that diets which are rich in bean protein and other legumes almost always decrease cholesterol, help to reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure, and help to control blood sugar levels.
One of my favorite ways to add beans to your diet is by simply making a tasty bowl of homemade chili! Making chili in a slow cooker is extremely easy, and can be an affordable meal that you will eat for a few days! I will be posting many slow cooker recipes in the future so if you don’t already have one, I highly recommend you find a quality slow cooker or multi cooker online!
The hemp seed comes from the cannabis Sativa plant, the plant which is notorious for being a part of the same family as the marijuana plant. Although it belongs to the same family as marijuana, it contains only trace amounts of THC (the compound that produces the marijuana-like drug effects). Hemp seed, though not as well known as other seeds, contains 10 grams of easily digestible and complete protein per ounce (28grams). That is about 50 percent more than flaxseeds and chia seeds!
Hemp also contains a good amount of iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium; and it is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio which is considered optimal for human health. It is interesting to note that studies found out that the fats found in hemp seeds may reduce inflammation, and also reduce the symptoms of PMS, certain skin diseases, and menopause.
Lentils are another great source of protein, with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup. Lentils can be used in a variety of dishes from hearty soups and spice-infused dahls, to fresh salads. Lentils also contain great amounts of slowly digested carbs, as a single cup (240ml) provides approximately 50 percent of the daily fiber intake that is recommended for you.
Furthermore, the type of fiber that is found in lentils has shown to be food for the good bacteria in your colon, thereby promoting a healthy stomach. Lentils have been show to help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer, and excess body weight. Lentils are also rich in manganese, iron, and folate, and contain a good amount of antioxidants and other plant compounds that promote quality health overall!
Edamame, Tofu and Tempeh
These three originate from soybeans, and soybeans themselves are regarded as whole sources of protein. Edamame is immature soybeans that have a sweet and slightly grassy taste, and need to be boiled or steamed before consumption. Edamame can be eaten tastily as a standalone, or can be added to soups and salads for consumption.
Tofu is made from bean curds that are pressed together in a process that is similar to cheese making, and tempeh is also made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans before pressing them into a patty. Although tofu does not have much taste, it easily absorbs the flavor of the ingredients that it is prepared with. These three contain calcium, iron and about 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100grams)
Humans do not need every essential amino acid in each bite we take or meals we eat; what we need is a sufficient amount of each amino acid daily. Most dietitians are now in agreeance that a plant based diet contain such a wide variety of amino acids that it vegans can easily access all of the amino acids their body needs, with little effort.
By searching for vegan protein sources filled with plant-based proteins, you will assuredly be making strides towards improving your overall health in many ways!