Whether you reduced your meat consumption, decided to go vegan or vegetarian or simply seek new and interesting ways to increase your plant based protein intake, this essential guide will help you understand what protein is, how it works and where to get it naturally from plants.
Proteins are an essential fuel source for our bodies as well as one of the building blocks of body tissue. If you need to picture it, think of an odd little chain of amino acids that looks like this:
They are necessary for growth and maintenance as they are a major structural component of all the cells in the body, parts of transport systems, enzymes, hormones or antibodies important for immune reaction. Calorie-wise they are as dense as carbohydrates and they arm us with 4kcal per gram.
The amount of protein required in a person's diet is determined in large part by overall energy intake, the body's need for nitrogen and essential amino acids, body weight and composition, rate of growth in the individual, physical activity level, the individual's energy and carbohydrate intake, and the presence of illness or injury.
According to US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day to minimize risk of deficiency. These Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) were calculated based on 0.8 grams protein per kilogram body weight and average body weights of 57 kg and 70 kg respectively. This requirement is for a normal sedentary person.
We get our proteins both from plant based and non-plant based sources but in any case, it’s safe to say that healthy individuals that follow a balanced diet plan, rarely need protein supplements. Good news, right?
If you are enjoying a plant based diet and indulge in a variety of colorful seasonal vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains your protein needs should be covered.
Let’s take a look at a few, protein-rich ingredients that we all have in our cupboards and share some recipe inspiration!
Lentils, either green or red are the absolute winners! They play the game strong with 18 grams of protein per cup not to mention the fibre, iron and potassium.
Chickpeas don’t want to fall behind and rightfully take the second place! With 15 grams per cup it surely is one of our favorites! We love to meal-prep and have them ready during the week. Easy chickpeasy!
Kidney beans will fuel you with 15 grams of protein per cup. Formerly known as ‘”the poor man’s meat” beans have gained popularity within the food industry and enrich our diets with various vitamins and minerals. Just boil a few cups once a week and keep them in the fridge to have them handy and add them to salads, wraps, soups or casseroles! They pretty much go with anything and if you mash them and mix them with herbs they make a killer no-meat burger as well!
Tofu with 10.3 grams pre half a cup is made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into a solid block. You have to marinade it to add flavor but skip the oil in your marinade ingredients as it will stick to the top but vinegar, wine, lemon juice or soy sauce and spices are excellent choices!
Peanuts and other tree nuts might come as a little surprise, but since high in protein, they have an absolute right to be on our list. There is 8 grams of protein in just 30 grams of peanuts, which is the recommended daily intake of nuts. Besides that, nuts are also an awesome source of fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Quinoa is a great source of protein and it’s so easy to cook and incorporate in almost any recipe that we have no excuse not to love it! One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein.
Buckwheat, contains about twice as much protein as oatmeal, which is about 5.7 grams of protein per 1 cup. Frugal, delicious and versatile. Did you know that buckwheat is not a grain? It’s also gluten free because it is neither a grain nor related to wheat, so it’s perfect for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. It makes a great porridge, perfect for cold winter mornings with a dash of cinnamon and chopped fruit.
When it comes to vegetables, look for dark, green ones to increase your protein intake.
Broccoli has 2.6 grams per cup and will help you amp your intake on a daily bases as it’s so easy to prep! Fresh or frozen it’s a staple we always have in our fridge.
Green Peas will give you a generous 8 grams per cup and they make a fantastic ragout as they add colour and depth to almost any recipe!
Which combos will you chose?