It’s a well-known fact that protein is essential for a healthy diet, with the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein being 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and they are responsible for forming enzymes, hormones, antibodies and new tissues. Protein also transports nutrients in and out of cells.
Finding good sources of plant-based protein can seem challenging at first. But it’s actually a lot easier than you think. Many fruits and vegetables contain more protein than you might guess. Not only are plant based proteins cheaper, but they are also lower in fat and richer in fiber than most meat options.
We’ve listed some of the best plant based sources of protein and, we have to say, they all sound delicious!
Fruits and Vegetables
We don’t normally think of fruits and vegetables as good protein sources, but that is just a misconception and these fruits and veggies prove just that!
With a whopping 10 grams of protein, avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit. In addition to that, they are also a complete protein, providing the body with all 18 essential amino acids. One avocado also provides your body with vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, along with loads of potassium and healthy fat. Try the Avocado Apple Pie Green Smoothie.
Although broccoli isn’t the first food that comes to mind when one thinks of protein, just one cup of this nutritious vegetable packs in 5 grams without any fat. When served alongside whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, broccoli can be turned into a source of complete protein. Unlike animal sources of protein, broccoli is rich in vitamins A and C. Try the Green Monster Smoothie.
Spinach contains 5 grams of protein per (cooked) cup. Low in calories, but rich in nutrition, this veggie is a great way to sneak more protein and fiber into your diet. Try the Creamed Spinach Smoothie –>
Green peas may be small, but they are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B6 and C1. Plus, one cup of peas contains 8 grams of protein, which is as much as a glass of milk.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are typically high in fiber, calcium, and iron, they are also inexpensive and an excellent source of protein. Combined with whole grains like buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and quinoa, beans and legumes not only make a delicious meal, but often also provide the full compliment of essential amino acids, turning them into a complete protein. Here is a list of beans and legumes which pack the most punch.
Rich in fiber, iron, phosphorous, and magnesium, soybeans are an excellent way to get your protein in. A one cup serving contains 28 grams of complete protein.
One cup of lentils provides about 18 grams of protein. Unlike the protein found in soybeans, the protein found in lentils isn’t complete. but that can easily be remedied by eating other protein sources throughout the day. Another benefit of lentils are that they are rich in fiber and are virtually fat-free.
One cup contains14.5 grams of protein as well as ample amounts of fiber. Best of all, the proteins found in garbanzo beans include all eight of the essential dietary amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
These hearty beans are a good source of protein, containing 15 grams in one cup. When combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they provide protein comparable to that of meat, without the saturated fat. Instead, you get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these delicious legumes.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide good amounts of protein in a small serving. In addition, they offer nutrients like fiber, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining heart health and boosting immunity.
This superfood is full of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You only need a little to get the benefits, with 1 ounce providing 4.7 grams of protein and 20% of your daily fiber intake. Try the I Yam, What I Yam Smoothie.
Not only are sesame seeds a very good source of manganese and copper, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain: sesamin and sesamolin. Two substances that are part of the fiber group known as lignans. Lignans have been shown to lower cholesterol and prevent high blood pressure. And with a 1 ounce serving containing 5 grams of protein, sesame seeds are a great meat alternative. Try the Cinnamon Bun Smoothie. It contains tahini, which is ground up sesame seeds.
Containing 5 grams of protein and ample amounts of fiber, cashews are guaranteed to keep you feeling satiated. They are one of the most nutrient-rich nuts and are packed with iron, zinc, and phosphorous. Try the Caramel Apple Cheesecake Green Smoothie.
These may be one of the lower calorie nuts, but they are high in protein and fiber. Pistachios contain 5.94 grams of protein and 2.8 grams of fiber in one ounce.
Grains offer an excellent way to get your fill of protein. Not only are they rich in fiber, but they also have a high amino acid content. Most grains, however, are not a source of complete protein on their own, but with so many other great tasting meat alternatives to compliment, the possibilities are endless!
This is an all-star grain! It is not only a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids and 24 grams of protein in one serving, but it is also rich in fiber, containing almost twice as much as most other grains. Quinoa also is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese and B vitamins. An added benefit: it is totally delicious!
Aside from being a great source of protein, with 28 grams in one cup, amaranth is higher in minerals, like calcium, iron, phosphorous, and carotenoids, than most vegetables. It’s also a great source of lysine, an essential and important amino acid.
With one cup containing 23 grams of protein, buckwheat makes a great meat alternative. Buckwheat also contains higher levels of zinc, copper, and manganese than other cereal grains. As if buckwheat could get any better, it is also extremely rich in potassium.
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