Five Great Plant-Based Protein Sources
Protein and Health
Protein is essential for good health and fitness. In fact, every cell in your body requires protein for proper growth and tissue repair. We tend to associate protein with meat, cheese, eggs and dairy; mostly coming from animal sources. However, there are many great sources of protein that come from plant sources. For optimal health, it is recommended that you consume between 0.8 and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. When shopping for alternate sources of protein, consider these protein-packed plant based sources.
Soy is available in a variety of textures and styles. One great way to benefit from the protein in soy is to enjoy it in its simplest, least processed way - the soy bean. Soy beans, or sometimes called edamame, are delicious and simple. Each serving of soybeans contain between 11 and 14 grams of protein. In addition to beans, soy is also available as tempeh, soy milk and miso; each serving of these contain between 8 and 15 grams of protein per serving. As an added benefit, soy is the only plant-based source of protein that serves as a complete protein, and offers healthy carbohydrates and heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Among grains, quinoa is the protein king. One cup of quinoa provides a whopping 24 grams of protein. While often served as a side dish, quinoa is hearty enough to be the star of any meal. For an additional protein boost, mix quinoa with delicious black beans, edamame, or soy. Quinoa travels well, making it a healthy meal for both breakfast and lunch.
Farro is a nutty flavored grain that resembles a mix between quinoa and rice, with a slightly chewy texture. Farro is a great source of protein, providing 6 grams per quarter cup. While not completely gluten-free, faro is a great low-gluten, high-protein plant-based option.
Perhaps the most inexpensive and widely available sources of plant-based proteins are the legumes. Seemingly available in every color and shape imaginable, legumes are also a great source of folic acid, iron and fiber. High protein varieties include white beans, black beans, kidney bean, garbanzo beans, cranberry beans, pinto beans and lentils. All varieties of beans tend to mix well with rice, quinoa or faro and provide between 14 and 17 grams of protein per cup.
Nuts have gotten a bad rap over the years. They are unfairly stereotyped as an unhealthy, fatty snack. However, research over the years has demonstrated nuts to actually be a super food - high in protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are excellent sources of protein, each providing about 7 grams of protein per ounce. While often high in fat and salt, selecting nut sources that are raw and unsalted tend to cut down on fat and sodium content. In addition to whole nuts, nuts are available as butters, the most common being almond and peanut butter, both excellent sources of protein; each providing around 7 grams of protein per two tablespoon serving. In addition to protein, nuts are good sources of calcium, zinc and vitamin E. Nuts and nut butters are great sources of proteins for healthy breakfast, lunch, and snacks as they are portable and travel well.