Plant-based diets have been used as a venue to optimize health, but the biggest challenge is typically how to get the protein without meat, eggs, and dairy. Protein is a macro nutrient composed of amino acids that is necessary for the proper growth and function of muscle and body tissue.
While the body can manufacture several amino acids required for protein production, a set of essential amino acids needs to be obtained from animal and/or vegetable protein sources. Using a well-founded whole food plant-based diet can provide enough protein to satisfy body’s needs and an active lifestyle. There is considerable debate over the amount of protein a person needs to consume per day, the current recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein is 46 grams for women aged 19-70 and 56 grams for men aged 19-70.
Here is a list of plant-based whole foods that are high in protein:
Quinoa (14 g protein per cup)
A gluten-free grain-like seed
, quinoa is a high protein alternative to rice or pasta, served alone or over vegetables and greens. It provides a good base for a veggie burger and is also a fantastic breakfast cereal when served cold with almond or coconut milk and berries.
Lentils (17.9 g protein per cup)
Delicious, nutritious and super easy to prepare for a meal in a soup or as a side dish, or as a snack. Trader Joe’s sells them pre-cooked.
Tempeh (30.78 g protein per cup)
soybean-based food, tempeh is a healthy protein-packed alternative to its non-fermented cousin tofu. It makes for a great veggie burger and doubles as a tasty meat alternative to meatballs in pasta, or over brown rice and vegetables.
Beans/Black, Kidney, Mung, Pinto (12-15 g protein per cup)
Great on a veggie burrito, in chili and soups, on salads or over rice with vegetables, beans of all varieties can easily be a daily inexpensive staple.
Spirulina (6g protein per 10 grams)
A blue-green algae, spirulina is a highly bioavailable complete protein containing all essential amino acids. It’s a plant-based protein powerhouse at 60% protein, the highest of any natural food.
Hemp Seeds (16 g protein per 3 tbsp)
With a perfect ration of omega-6 and omega-3 EFA’s, hemp seeds are another bioavailable complete protein rivaled only by spirulina. A simple and great addition to a multitude of dishes, from breakfast cereal to salads to smoothies to vegetables and rice.
Pumpkin, Squash, and Watermelon Seeds (28-33 g protein per 100 g)
A popular food in the Middle East and East Asia, these seeds are very popular roasted and can be eaten as a snack or in combination with other dishes and salads.
Marmite Yeast Extract Spread (27.8 g protein per 100 grams)
It is a natural by-product from brewer’s yeast through the process of fermentation
. A good source of vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin, the spread packs a lot of protein. Has been very popular in Britain and Europe.
Almonds (24 g protein per 1 cup)
Have a lower saturated fat content and a multitude of health benefits.
Couscous (15.1 g protein per 100 g)
Light and fluffy of semolina, traditionally prepared as a side dish with a stew spooned over it.
Chia Seeds (4.4 protein per 1 ounce)
High in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. Can be used in smoothies, homemade granola, sprinkled over hot or cold cereal, baked into crackers, and added to salads. Soak chia seeds for about 10 minutes before consuming to prevent them from absorbing water from your body during digestion and causing dehydration.
There are plenty of other options, but this gives you an idea of the wide range of plant-based protein-rich foods available.
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Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana
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