We all know how important protein is in our diet. Proteins are the building blocks of our cells. Proteins are broken down into amino acids which help create and repair cells and is important for growth and development. Amino acids can be essential or nonessential. Essential amino acids are not made in our bodies and therefore must come from a food source. A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids. Examples of complete plant-based proteins are quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, chia seeds, and soy. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein/kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams of protein/pound of body weight. On average this equates to 56 grams of protein for men and 46 grams of protein for women.
I have moved towards a more plant based diet over the past couple years. This is not because I have anything against traditional animal protein, but it has been easier to incorporate plant-based proteins into my diet. I love cooking with plant-based proteins, and I enjoy the flavors as well. Every protein has its place in our diet so try experimenting with some new ones!
Try Swapping These 8 Plant-Based Proteins Into Your Diet:
These are legumes that are a balanced source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. One cup of lentils has 18 grams of protein and almost 16 grams of fiber. They are considered a complex carbohydrate. Lentils are great as a side dish, in soups and stews, with rice, and on salads.
These are also legumes that have a similar nutrient profile to lentils. There are a large variety of beans to choose from. One cup of beans has about 15 grams of protein. Beans can be used in a similar way to lentils.
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This is a gluten free grain (actually a seed). One cup of quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. I love using this as my grain for any meal or making it the main ingredient.
4) Hemp Seeds
These are amazing little seeds that are complete proteins! This means they contain all of the essential amino acids. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 9 grams of protein. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids. I like sprinkling these on top of salads or in smoothies and oatmeal.
5) Chia Seeds
These are also a seed that can fill you up! They absorb water and turn into a gel-like substance perfect for making “pudding.” Two tablespoons have about 4 grams of protein. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids. I like mixing them into yogurt and smoothies.
Not surprising, but almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc. are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Typically, a 1/4 cup of nuts contains between 7-9 grams of protein. The best and easiest way to enjoy nuts is as a snack! You can always add them into granola, eat nut butter or use nut flour for baking.
Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. are similar to nuts. They contain about 7-9 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. Seeds have a more earthy taste than nuts but are also simple to use. Sprinkle them on salads, use them in granola, or eat them as a snack.
8) Tofu – or Edamame
Soy foods contain about 20 grams of protein per serving. That’s a lot! These products can be marinated, baked, grilled, fried and used in a sauce or burger. Try a few different recipes before you give up on tofu/tempeh. I love using edamame as a side dish or snack. I buy the frozen pods or shelled version.