‘But where do you get your protein?’

burgerI have been eating a vegan diet for a little over a year and a half, yet in that short space of time i have been asked about my protein intake so much, that if i had a euro for every time someone asked me about it, i would be a rich man already.  We in the West are obsessed about protein. In the US alone, the sports supplement industry is worth over $16 billion, with protein powders well ahead at the top of that list.  The huge gym boom in the 70’s with the dogma of bodybuilding at the heart of it, is what drove our current obsession with this macro-nutrient. “Protein, and lots of it, builds muscle” – was, and still is, the health mantra at the heart of the fitness industries. Now i’m not saying protein isn’t important, it is! It’s just not nearly as vital as you’re lead to believe. The recommended daily intake of protein is 42 gr. That’s roughly only 8-10% of your daily calorific needs that should come from protein. Yet on average, non-vegan/vegetarians are consuming around 80 grams a day, whilst us non meat eaters consume around 70 grams a day on average. Of course people with physically more active lives should be upping that percentage, but not by much.

Lets take the example that we have all experienced-our first 2 years of life. It’s during these first 2 years, our protein needs are at their highest, as we will experience our greatest time growth spurt; doubling in size.  At this vigorous developmental stage, our ideal food is human milk, which is just 5% protein! So as you can tell, we clearly don’t need all that much protein but when we do, meat and dairy, believe it or not, are also not the only sources of protein out there. In fact if you care about your own health, you should be staying away from them altogether..

So where exactly do i get my protein from? Well the answer is, everything i eat! That might come as a shock to some of you but every single plant-based food contains protein. Ok maybe some of you know that, but have also heard that not all plant-based proteins have all the essential amino acids. That is a myth; based on old science. Recent recent research has proven that all foods contain all the essential amino acids that the body requires. All but one actually and that food is gelatin. So plant-based and animal-based protein are practically equal right? Wrong. Unlike plant protein, animal protein contains zero fiber, and fiber is WAY more important than protein. Lets take the example of Americans. 97% are getting enough protein yet only 3% are consuming enough fiber. The benefits of a diet high in fiber are huge and a lack of it has been associated with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and various cancers, as well as higher cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Animal protein also contains cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which are bad news since they are strongly linked to all the diseases above. The role that animal protein plays in relation to cancer is also high. One of the main antagonists for this seems to be the role of IGF-1 found in animal products. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) is a hormone found in the blood. IGF-1 serves a number of purposes, mainly to regulate growth hormone in the body. In children, IGF-1 plays an important role in tissue and bone growth. As we age and growth starts to level off, IGF-1 levels should decrease. But that doesn’t always happen. When IGF-1 continues to increase, the excess grows into something else—a possible cancer. Meanwhile plant proteins contains no IGF-1. In fact there has been evidence showing people who consume only plant-based protein can decrease their IGF-1 levels.

Like i mentioned before every plant-based food contains protein but below is a list of the higher protein-sourced foods. I hope this post has shed some light on the negative sides of a diet high in animal-based proteins and proved that us plant-eating folk wont atrophy and waste away due to a lack in protein! If anything at all, i hope i get asked that question a lot less! Let me know what you guys think of the post, if you have any questions again, i’m happy to answer as best i can. Cheers!

P.s if you want to try making the high protein burger pictured above, click Here  

1. LENTILS

Lentils are an amazing source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Lentils are considered to be a starchy protein. Split green peas can be also added into the same category as lentils.

Nutrition: 1 cup cooked lentils = 18g protein, 1 cup of green peas = 8g protein

Uses:

  • Cooked with your favorite spices and seasonings and eaten plain
  • Top on salads, nourish bowls or one bowl skillet meals
  • Combine with rice or quinoa for a hearty meal
  • Use to make vegetarian meatballs, loafs, or burgers
  • Use as a taco filling or meat sauce for spaghetti 

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

2. HEMP SEEDS

Hemp seeds not only contain protein but also contain heart-healthy fats, mainly omega-3 fatty acids. They have a delicious subtly sweet and nutty flavor and are so small in size that they can easily be used and added to any recipe to boost the protein content.

Nutrition: 3 tablespoons hemp = about 10g protein

Uses:

  • Sprinkle on top of salads
  • Stir or blend into soups or stews to slightly thicken
  • Add to smoothies
  • Add to hummus, dips, or dressings by blending in hemp seeds
  • Sprinkle on top of porridge, oatmeals, or other cereals
  • Add into baked goods and desserts for added protein

3. CHIA SEEDS

Chia seeds are an ancient seed that have been used for centuries for their amazing properties to absorb water and turn into a gel-like substance thanks to the soluble fiber content in the seeds. Because of this unique characteristic, chia seeds are great to add to meals and foods to thicken naturally while also boosting the fiber, protein, and healthy fats (mainly omega-3’s).

Nutriton: 2 tablespoons = 4g protein

Uses:

  • Sprinkle on top of porridges, oatmeal, and cold cereals for a crunch
  • Soak for at least 30 minutes in almond milk for a basic chia seed pudding

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

4. QUINOA

Quinoa is a gluten-free grain (technically a seed) that is used as a carbohydrate. It’s considered a starchy protein because it contains carbohydrates as well as protein and fiber.

Nutrition: 1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 7-9g protein

Uses:

  • Cook and top on raw or cooked greens
  • Use in a nourish bowl or one bowl skillet meal
  • Use as a hot or cold cereal by adding homemade nut milk and fresh fruit
  • Use a bed of quinoa instead of a bed of rice for stir-fry dishes or as a side dish
  • use to add a protein punch to any salad

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

5. SPIRULINA

Spirulina is incredibly protein rich and one of the few sources of plant-based protein that is mostly protein by dry weight (about 70%). It’s deep blue-green in color and will change anything you mix with it into that color green. It tastes subtly sweet and nutty (hints of vanilla and chocolate), but with a background seaweed flavor.

Nutrition: 2 tablespoons spirulina = 8g protein
Uses:

  • Blend into smoothies
  • Use in snack or dessert recipes

6. NUTRITIONAL YEAST

Nutritional yeast is a staple food item in plant-based diets due to its cheesy flavor, versatility, high amounts of B vitamins, and protein content. Nutritional yeast contains no dairy or active yeast, and it’s found in a powder/flake form that creates a paste when mixed with liquid, i.e. it’s great for making dairy-free sauces, dressings, and more.

Nutrition: 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast = about 12g protein

Uses:

  • Add flaked nutritional yeast to almond milk or water to create a cheesy dressing or sauce
  • Sprinkle on top of salads, quinoa, lentils, beans, and more for a cheesy flavor
  • Incorporate into dips such as hummus, Baba ganoush or classic cashew cheese

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

7. SEEDS

Seeds such as sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, and pumpkin seeds are all both protein and mineral rich. Seeds vary from type, and some are more nutty in flavor whereas others are more sweet and neutral tasting. Pumpkin seeds have an earthy flavor, sesame seeds are very nutty tasting, sunflower seeds are slightly sweet and nutty, and flax and chia seeds taste mildly nutty.

Nutrition: 1/4 cup seeds = around 7-9g protein

Uses:

  • Sprinkle seeds on top of salads or any meal to increase the healthy fat and protein content
  • Use in granola, muesli, or other baked goods
  • Grind and use as a “flour” in gluten free baking
  • Grind or pulse coarsely and use in desserts
  • Use in desserts, snacks, truffles, and raw bars for a nutrient dense boost
  • Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, porridges, or cold cereals for crunch and protein

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

8. NUTS

Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and more are not only rich in minerals, Vitamin E, and healthy fats but are also protein rich. Nuts vary from type, and some are more nutty in flavor whereas others are more sweet and neutral tasting. Cashews are one of my favorite nuts as they’re incredibly versatile to use in sweet and savory dishes. Brazil nuts are my close second favorite because they’re rich in selenium. Just eating 1 a day makes up 100% of your DV for selenium.

Nutrition: 1/4 cup nuts = around 7-9g protein

Uses:

  • Sprinkle nuts on top of salads or any meal to increase the healthy fat and protein content
  • Use in granola, muesli, or other baked goods
  • Grind and use as a “flour” in gluten free baking
  • Grind or pulse coarsely and use in desserts
  • Use in desserts, snacks, Truffels, and raw bars for a nutrient dense boost
  • Make your own nut butters by blending
  • Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, porridges, or cold cereals for crunch and protein

10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating

9. BEANS

Beans are an amazing source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Beans are considered to be a starchy protein to be used similarly to lentils.

Nutrition: 1 cup cooked beans = around 15g protein

Uses:

  • Cooked with your favorite spices and seasonings and eaten plain
  • Top on salads
  • Combine with rice or quinoa for a hearty meal
  • Use to make vegetarian meatballs, loafs, or burgers
  • Use as a taco filling or meat sauce for spaghetti

10. TEMPEH/ORGANIC TOFU/EDAMAME

Soy containing foods such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame all offer a complete protein containing all amino acids. Often these sources also carry fiber and healthy fats as well as the protein. Tempeh is the most nutritious out of this bunch and is an exception to soy foods as it contains natural occurring healthy bacteria from the fermentation process.

Nutrition: 1 serving of tempeh/tofu/edamame = around 20g protein

Uses:

  • Use as you would beans or lentils. Tofu and tempeh both can be marinated.
  • Use tempeh and tofu as toppings to salads.
  • Add to stir-fry meals.
  • Add to sauces, for example, create a “meat” spaghetti sauce
  • Use as filling for tacos, burgers, or even shaped into “hot dogs”
  • Shopping tip: always purchase organic and sprouted tofu if available, non-GMO if available.

 

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