I’m often asked where you get protein from if you don’t eat meat, fish and dairy products. It can sometimes be a concern that a vegetarian or vegan diet will not provide a full range of nutrients by omitting these foods.
However, it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Why do we need protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in how our bodies function. It is required by the body for the growth, maintenance and repair of all cells. It’s a major component of all muscles, tissues and organs and is vital for practically every process that occurs within the body such as metabolism, digestion and the transportation of nutrients and oxygen in the blood.
It is also necessary for the production of antibodies, which fight against infection and illness, and is the main nutrient that keeps our hair shiny and healthy, our nails strong, our skin fresh and glowing and our bones strong and healthy.
So pretty important!
However, too much animal protein is associated with several diseases, it is also highly acidic to the body and can be very difficult to digest. Including more plant sources of protein will offer more health benefits including more fibre and provide a broader range of nutrients. Like most of the nutrients from quality food, a little goes a long way. Back in the hunter/gatherer days, primitive man ate a lot less meat – usually around 20% of his total diet – a far cry from how much the average person in the Western world consumes daily in the 21st century!
Here are some of the top plant based proteins, try and eat from each group for maximum benefit.
1. Vegetables – the proper foundation for all diets.
• 1 avocado – 10 grams
• 1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
• 1 cup spinach – 5 grams
• 2 cups cooked kale – 5 grams
• 1 cup boiled peas – 9 grams
• 1 cup cooked sweet potato – 5 grams
2. Legumes, lentils and beans, the foundation of many diets for centuries.
• 1 cup soybeans – 28 grams (1 cup tempeh – 30 grams)
• 1 cup lentils – 18 grams
• 1 cup refried beans – 15.5 grams
• 1 cup chickpeas beans (and hummus) – 14.5 grams
• 1 cup pinto, kidney, black beans – 13-15 grams
3. Nuts and seeds – a staple in most vegetarian and vegan diets.
• 1 oz. cashews – 4.4 grams
• 1 oz. sesame seeds 6.5 grams, 3 tablespoons of tahini – 8 grams
• 1/4 cup (2 oz.) walnuts – 5 grams
• 1 oz. pistachios – 5.8 grams
• 2 tbsp almonds – 4 grams
• Nut butters – peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter – 2 tablespoons has about 8 grams of protein
4. Non Dairy Milk
• Soy, almond. 1 cup provides 7-9 grams of protein
5. Grains – Ancient grains, sprouted grains (NOT refined grains!)
• Quinoa is versatile and delicious. 1 cup – 9 grams.
• Amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, wheat germ, oat bran are other grains with a high protein content.
• Oatmeal – 1 cup = 6 grams.
• Sprouted grain bread products – buns, tortillas, bread. Pack a sandwich or a wrap and you’ll get 7-10 grams from the bread alone.
• Spirulina and chlorella are used often by vegetarians and vegans for their rich nutrient content, and protein content.
• Hemp – 30 grams of hemp powder in your smoothie gives you 11 grams of protein.