7 Best Sources of Plant Based Protein
When you think of plants, you don’t think protein, you think vitamins. You’d be surprised to know that a lot of vegetables and other plants contain amounts of protein that can easily supplement your diet. You would also be surprised that research is coming out that says that all plants contain protein.
Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli actually contain the same protein per calorie ratio as meat. This proves that a vegan diet can be just as good protein-wise as an omnivore’s diet, as by the time you have gotten all of the calories you need for the day, you have gotten all of the protein you need as well.
Another concern about those eating a plant based diet is that they are not getting complete proteins, containing all of the amino acids needed by the body. Animal sources of protein are often complete proteins such as meat or eggs. However, it is not actually necessary to only eat complete protein, as a variety of vegetables can supply all of the essential amino acids throughout the day.
Here are seven sources of plant based protein to help you fulfill your daily protein requirement.
You simply can’t talk about plant based protein without mentioning soy. Soybeans and the products of soy such as tofu are some of the best ways to get protein in a plant based diet. Soy is used in fake meat products and protein powder, and it is delicious and versatile to use in cooking as well. Throw shelled edamame (young soybeans) into a stir fry or marinate tofu to use as the ‘meat’ of a vegetable dish. It can even be scrambled as an egg substitute for breakfast. Soybeans contain more than half of your daily protein requirement as well as a large amount of copper, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
Spinach is well known for making kids grow big and strong, and for good reason. It is one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables for very few calories. One cup of cooked spinach contains only 41 calories but provides more than a day’s worth of vitamins A and K. It is also very high in folate and other B vitamins, manganese, iron, copper, calcium and fiber. Not only that, one cup of spinach contains 11 percent of your daily protein intake. Spinach is a great choice for a plant based diet and is easy to add to any dish.
Broccoli is another wonderful choice for a varied diet. Like spinach, it contains all of the vitamin K you need for a day as well as vitamin C. One cup of broccoli actually contains more vitamin C than an orange for only 55 calories. Other nutrients include B vitamins, fiber, vitamin E and choline, which is an important nutrient for the body found primarily in animal products. Broccoli contains 7 percent of your daily recommended protein.
Avocado is an important source of healthy fat for a plant based diet. One cup contains 21 grams of unsaturated fat, the kind that is most beneficial for the body. Avocados are also a great source of fiber, vitamin K, copper and several B vitamins. They’re the perfect food for overall health. On top of everything else, avocado contains 6 percent of the protein you need.
A more recent health fad in the Western diet, quinoa has shown everyone the benefits it contains. It can be used in place of rice to provide far more nutrients to the diet. This grain isn’t actually a grain at all, but a seed, which makes it good for those who are sensitive to gluten. It is high in copper and fiber as well as several other minerals. For protein content, ¾ cup of cooked quinoa contains eight grams of protein, which accounts for 16 percent of the recommended protein intake. Not only that, quinoa is one of the only plant based complete sources of protein.
Usually thought of as a side dish to a burger or a steak, potatoes are nutritious in their own right. They’re loaded with things such as potassium, fiber, and even vitamin C. One small potato baked contains 9 percent of protein as well. If you eat dairy, maximize your potato consumption by skipping the butter and sour cream and instead topping your baked potato with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. Also, skip the greasy French fries, which offset the nutrition of a potato with the unhealthy oil and fat they’re cooked in. To fulfill a craving, bake your own French fries with a bit of olive oil and some seasonings.
Sweet potatoes are actually more nutritious than regular potatoes. They have all the same nutrients and more, with extra vitamins A and C. The same amount of baked sweet potato contains 8 percent protein, so it is very close.
Nuts encompass a wide range of foods that actually are mostly not even nuts at all, officially. Peanuts are legumes, which are generally very good with protein, as found in their bean cousins. ¼ cup of raw peanuts contains 19 percent of the protein you need, while just a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter contain seven percent.
Almonds, which are technically seeds, are very high in biotin and vitamin E, and contain 10 percent of the recommended protein in ¼ cup. Another seed, the cashew, is one of the best food sources of copper while also providing 15 percent of the protein you need.
As you can see, you don’t need to fill your diet with specific sources of protein in order to get enough throughout the day. These and other foods can make up a plant based diet that is sufficient in protein while also providing you with the vitamins and minerals you need. The key to any diet is variety, it is almost impossible to be deficient in anything when you eat a wide range of different foods each day.
Written by: Dan Wadhwa