Heart health, weight loss, clear skin, better digestion, more energy….these are just some of the reasons to include more plant proteins in your diet. You don’t have to go full fledged vegetarian to benefit. Simpy incorporate one plant-based meal each day, or try a #meatlessmonday.
The key to plant proteins is variety. Each plant contains a different amino acid profile, so be sure to include an array of them to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. This doesn’t have to be done in one meal. Instead, include them over the course of one day.
Here is a list of some easy-to-find plant-based proteins that you can add into your meals to benefit from all the wholesome goodness that they have to offer us, naturally.
Oats: (26g protein/cup) A nutrient-rich cereal grain that is demulcent and soothing to the digestive system. Enjoy them as overnight oats, turn them in to a dairy-free oat milk, or add them into smoothies.
Hemp Hearts: (9g protein/oz) This is the nutritious heart of the hemp seed that has a nutty flavour and does not need to be cooked. These add a nice crunch to salads, granola or yogurt, or blend them up with almonds for a delicious non-diary milk.
Chia Seeds: (5g protein/oz) These tiny seeds are native to Mexico and have changed many lives in the plant-based community. They absorb 10 times their weight in water, so you will want to make sure they are either soaked first, or you eat them with a liquid. Because they grow in size, they keep you full longer and add great bulk to smoothies, granola and pudding. Our favourite way to enjoy them is with coconut milk in a chia pudding, either for breakfast or as a dessert.
Nuts: (7g protein/oz) Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are high in plant-based protein and high in fibre. Ground nuts make a wonderful pie crust, dairy-free milk, topping on salads or yogurt. It is really simple to add nuts in to your meals as they can be eaten raw. Also try nut butters and nut oils on salads. Aim for the raw or dry roasted, unsalted, varieties. Nuts should be stored in your freezer as they can go rancid easily.
Nutritional Yeast: (9g protein/2 Tblsp) aka, “nooch”, is a new fave in the plant-based world. If you are lucky, you can find a brand that is fortified with vitamin B12, which does not normally exist naturally in plant-based foods. These dry flakes give a cheesy, nutty flavour that is naturally low in sodium but still packs alot of flavour. Nutritional yeast can be turned into a dairy-free cheese sauce, a vegan “parmesan”, and crisps up nicely on roasted chick peas.
Quinoa: (8g protein/cup) Considered a superfood, this seed that is eaten like a grain and has more nutritional value and protein than other plants. It makes a great alternative to rice, when boiled, and can also be popped like popcorn, when dry. The seeds can also be soaked and sprouted for easier digestion. Once a week, make a big pot of cooked quinoa and add it to salads, stuff it into peppers for dinners, use it in wraps and homemade granola, to sneak in extra protein throughout your days.
Flax Seeds: (6g protein/oz) Most beneficial when ground, flax seeds contain the most omega 3, which is anti-inflammatory, skin, brain and heart healthy. It is a source of phytoestrogen and lignans for women’s health, and antioxidants for boosting the immune system. Flax naturally gels when mixed with water, so it is often used as an egg replacement in vegan baking. Add ground flax to granola, bliss balls, cereals, in baked goods, on yogurt and in smoothies. Also try flax oil in salad dressing or on its own for it’s blood sugar-regulating properties.
Pumpkin Seeds: (9g/oz) Rich in antioxidants, zinc and magnesium, these powerhouses are beneficial for men’s health, post-menopausal health, heart health and immunity. Enjoy them raw in bliss balls, or roast them and add them to salads for a nutty crunch.
Spirulina: (39g protein/oz) A blue-green algae that packs nutritional value, protein and flavour. It is often used in detox programs and face maks!, as it pulls heavy metals from the body and is anti-microbial. It provides energy so avoid using at night. Add it into smoothies for a blood sugar-balancing, uplifting morning pick-me-up.
Beans: (15-17g protein/cup) Soybeans are complete, the other beans can be combined with other vegetables for the 9 amino acids to make them a complete protein. If you have trouble digesting beans, try soaking and sprouting them for a day or two to release the phytic acid that causes tummy troubles in some. Otherwise, steam them lightly and add them to salads and side dishes, roast them for a crunchy snack, turn them into heart-healthy hummus, or cook them with veggies for a delicious chili.
Stay creative, stay open, and let us know how what delicious plant-based dishes you’ve come up with.
To your health,
Jen Casey, Holistic Nutritionist @NextBiteNutritionCoaching