How to Get Your Protein From Plants
October 2, 2017
Building a meals centered around plant proteins is the new ideal in terms of healthful dieting and leading a more sustainable lifestyle. This way of eating has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. In light of these recent connections, China’s health ministry is now recommending that its citizens reduce meat consumption by half and the French government is boosting investments in alternative proteins and micro algae. Furthermore, the latest dietary guide for Americans recommends including high fat, protein rich, plant foods like avocado and almonds in one’s daily diet. There are so many ways to experiment with plant based proteins. Below is just a bit more information on the different options on the market.
Pulses include dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. They are extremely affordable and rich in nutritional benefits. Not only are they high in protein, packing in up to 9 grams per half cup serving, but they are also good sources of fiber, iron, folate, potassium and magnesium.
Pulses are considered a sustainable crop to grow because they require very little water relative to meat based proteins and they have the ability to reuse nutrients in the atmosphere, making them less reliable on fertilizers. It is best to cook your own beans, lentils and peas from the dried state. This allows you to control the sodium content and other additives that manufacturers might add. If time is an issue and you need to rely on a canned version, look for an organic, low sodium brand in a BPA free can and be sure to rinse them well before use.
Pulses can be blended into dips and spread, tossed in soups and salads or fashioned into burgers. Anyway, you imagine it, they are versatile and delicious.
Tempeh is made by packing fermented soy beans into blocks that can later be sliced into strips, crumbled or seared whole. Because tempeh uses the whole soy bean, it is less processed than tofu and has higher levels of zinc, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, as a result of the fermentation process, it has probiotic benefits. There is roughly 5 grams of protein per ounce of tempeh.
Tofu is made from soy milk that has been coagulated and pressed into blocks. It comes in different consistencies from silken (which can be pureed into sauces or smoothies) to extra firm (which can be grilled, baked or seared). Tofu is rich in calcium as a result of the calcium sulfate that is used in the coagulation process. Protein ranges from 4-10 grams per ounce, depending on the style of tofu.
Whole Grains include quinoa, faro, spelt, teff and amaranth, just to name a few. These grains are popping up in cereals and baked goods but they also can be transformed into delicious salads and side dishes. Whole grains contain up to 6 grams of protein per half cup serving.
Nuts and Seeds vary in nutrient offerings but are generally rich sources of unsaturated fats, fiber, protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Hemp seeds in particular are a protein powerhouse, packing in 9 grams per ounce (more than chicken, beef or pork). Nuts and seeds can be tossed in salads and used as garnishes in entrees, but also are delicious whipped into butters and blended into milks.