Protein powerhouses for Plant Based Eaters!
Protein is essential for survival. Your muscles, tendons, skin and organs are created from protein. Proteins make hormones, neurotransmitters, and even enzymes to digest the food that you eat. You cannot function without protein.
Many vegetarians and vegans do not get enough protein in their diet. This isn’t because it’s not possible – it is very possible to get protein from plants. However, it takes a bit more attention to not only what you eat but also how much you eat. The following foods provide a good amount of protein and can help you thrive on a plant based diet.
Nuts and Seeds
A diet rich in nuts and seeds also helps keep you healthy as you age by preventing disease. People who regularly consume nuts tend to weigh less than those who rarely eat nuts, as well as face a lower risk for weight gain in the future. Nuts and seeds both help reduce the levels of inflammation in your body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, which might reduce your risk of heart disease. Nut consumption also correlates with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
* Almonds 30g protein per cup
* Chia seeds 16g protein per cup
* Hemp seeds 10g protein per ounce
* Sunflower seeds 23g protein per cup
One of the simplest, cheapest, and vegan-est (plant based) meals in existence is also one of the best sources of protein around. Most beans are low in methionine and high in lysine, while rice is low in lysine and high in methionine. Put them together and you are on par with that of meat as far as protein is concerned. Subbing lentils or chickpeas for beans produces the same effect. These meals are a great way to load up on protein and carbohydrates after an intense workout.
* Baked tofu 20g protein per cup
* Black beans 15g protein per cup
* Edamame 17g per cup
* Garbanzo beans 15g protein per cup
* Great northern beans 15g protein per cup
* Lentils 18g protein per cup
Try this recipe:
Mango Salsa Black Beans + Red Coconut Rice
Inspired by Living Well Spending Less
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 cup red rice, dry
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup water
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup mango salsa
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Scatter coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 5 minutes. Ensure that they don’t burn. Once they turn a tan color, remove from oven and set aside.
In a large saucepan bring the rice, vegetable broth, water, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper to a boil over high heat. Give it a good stir, then once it reaches a boil, cover and turn down to simmer for about 45 minutes or until all the water is gone and the rice is fluffy. Towards the end, give it a few more good stirs to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add more water as needed. Red rice seems to take a lot of water I’ve noticed. If you’re using different rice, then adjust accordingly.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in the chili and chipotle chili powder and sauté a few minutes, then add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Next, add the beans and 1 cup water and allow to simmer over low heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove the beans from heat after the 20 minutes and add the coconut, lime juice and cilantro. Stir well to combine.
Serve the beans over the rice and top with 1/4 cup mango salsa.
Or try this recipe for a dip with your vegetables this summer:
Avocado Hummus + Whole Wheat Pita Chips
Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups dip // 24 chips
For avocado hummus:
1 (15 oz.) can white beans (I used cannellini), drained and rinsed
1 avocado, cut into chunks
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and fresh cilantro, optional
For pita chips:
3 whole wheat pita bread pockets
2 Tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
1/4 teaspoon Greek or Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Salt, for sprinkling
For avocado hummus:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. If dip is too thick for your taste, blend in a little more oil or lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Before serving, top with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and cilantro, if desired. Serve with pretzels, crackers or pita chips (recipe below).
For pita chips:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
Cut each pita bread pocket into 8 triangles. Place triangles on baking sheet.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, Greek seasoning, garlic salt/powder and pepper. Brush each triangle with oil mixture. Lightly sprinkle with salt (use a little extra if you’re using garlic powder instead of garlic salt).
Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp, careful not to burn.
The benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include:
- stroke risk reduced 30-36%
- type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
- heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
- better weight maintenance
Other benefits indicated by recent studies include:
- reduced risk of asthma
- healthier carotid arteries
- reduction of inflammatory disease risk
- lower risk of colorectal cancer
- healthier blood pressure levels
- less gum disease and tooth loss
* Brown rice 5g per cup
* Couscous 6g protein per cup
* Quinoa 8g protein per cup
Quinoa: Protein is made out of amino acids. Some of them are termed “essential” because we cannot produce them and need to get them from the diet.
If a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is seen as a “complete” protein.
The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as Lysine.
However… quinoa is an exception to this, being particularly high in in all the essential amino acids. For this reason, quinoa is an excellent source of protein. It has both more and better protein than most grains.
Try this recipe:
Beet, Blood Orange, Kumquat, and Quinoa Salad
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
- 2 teaspoons grated blood orange rind
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 cup blood orange sections, chopped (about 4 medium)
- 1 cup diced peeled avocado
- 6 whole kumquats, seeded and sliced
- 2 medium beets, cooked and cut into wedges
- To prepare dressing, combine first 10 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Set aside.
- To prepare salad, place quinoa in a fine sieve, and place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, rub grains together for 30 seconds; rinse and drain. Repeat procedure twice. Drain well.
- Combine 1 3/4 cups water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Combine quinoa, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, blood orange sections, avocado, and kumquats in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine. Add dressing; toss gently to coat salad. Spoon 1 cup salad onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1/2 cup beets.
Amount per serving
- Calories 442
- Fat 20.7 g
- Sat-fat 2.7 g
- Mono-fat 12.3 g
- Poly-fat 2.1 g
- Protein 9.1 g
- Carbohydrate 58 g
- Fiber 10.7 g
- Cholesterol 0.0 mg
- Iron 3.9 mg
- Sodium 486 mg
- Calcium 117 mg
Making sure that you eat a variety of beans, nuts, seeds, and grains can help ensure not only that you get enough protein but also a well-rounded source of protein. Generally speaking you should get around 50 grams or more of protein each day, and if you exercise then you need even more. Many doctors and health experts recommend striving for 25 grams of protein at each meal.
Next time we’ll talk about how to make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your plant based diet.
Plant Based Diet – Week Two