Updated: Jul 6
Today's health-conscious society is becoming more and more aware of the benefits of plant-based diets and plant proteins. As more people seek a sustainable and balanced approach to nutrition, plant protein has become a valuable option. Read on to learn all about plant protein and discover 30 whole food, plant-based sources.
Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, or flexitarian lifestyle, or just want to incorporate more plant-based options into your meals, understanding the power of plant protein can help you nourish your body while enjoying a wide variety of delicious foods.
In this blog post, we will dig into the world of plant protein, exploring some of its benefits, sources, and ways to make it a satisfying part of your daily diet. Get ready to discover the wonders of plant protein and unlock the potential of a more vibrant, sustainable, and wholesome approach to eating. Let's dive in!
Why is protein important?
Eating protein is important for several reasons:
Building and repairing tissues: Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They're essential for the growth, maintenance, and repair of tissues, including muscles, organs, skin, hair, and nails. When you eat foods that have protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are then used to build and repair these tissues.
Enzyme production: Enzymes are proteins that help with chemical reactions in the body. They assist with the break down food, they synthesize molecules, and carry out various metabolic processes. Without enough protein in your diet, your body may struggle to make enough enzymes, which can impact overall bodily functions.
Hormone production: Many hormones in the body are made up of proteins or are regulated by protein synthesis. Hormones play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, such as growth, metabolism, reproduction, and mood. Getting enough protein is necessary to support the production and proper functioning of hormones.
Immune function: Protein is involved in the production of antibodies, which are essential for a healthy immune system. Antibodies help to fight off infections, viruses, and other harmful substances in the body. A deficiency in protein can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses.
Energy source: While whole food carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy, in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates, protein can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This occurs during prolonged periods of fasting, intense exercise, or when carbohydrate intake is limited. Protein can help provide energy and prevent muscle breakdown in those situations.
Appetite regulation and satiety: Protein-rich foods tend to be more satisfying and keep you feeling fuller for longer compared to high-carbohydrate or high-fat foods. Including protein in your meals and snacks can help regulate appetite, prevent overeating, and support weight management.
**Keep in mind that individual protein needs may vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and overall health. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can help you determine your specific protein requirements and incorporate them into a well-balanced diet.
Why we love plant proteins
Here are some wonderful ways that plant proteins can offer benefits:
Nutrient diversity: Plant-based protein sources usually come bundled with other beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In a balanced diet, these nutrients promote overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Lower saturated fat and cholesterol: Animal-based protein sources, such as red meat and full-fat dairy, tend to be higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues. Plant proteins, on the other hand, are typically lower in saturated fat and have no dietary cholesterol.
Fiber content: Plant-based protein sources, such as beans (legumes), whole grains, and certain vegetables, are often high in dietary fiber. Fiber is important for digestive health, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and supporting a healthy weight. Animal protein sources do not contain fiber.
Reduced risk of certain diseases: Eating a plant-based proteins has been linked to a lower risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. This may be partly due to the beneficial components found in plant foods, such as phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Environmental sustainability: Plant-based protein sources tend to have a lower environmental impact compared to animal-based protein sources. Deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions are all contributing factors to the production of meat from livestock. Plant proteins generally have a smaller carbon footprint and can contribute to more sustainable food systems.
However, it's important to note that animal proteins, when consumed in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet, can also provide important nutrients such as high-quality amino acids, vitamins (e.g., vitamin B12), minerals (e.g., iron, zinc), and omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., from fatty fish).
Ultimately, the key to a healthy diet lies in consuming a variety of protein sources, whether from plant or animal origins, while considering individual dietary needs, preferences, and ethical considerations. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to personalize dietary recommendations based on specific health goals and requirements.
My favorite sources of plant-based protein and some ways to use them.(Don't worry, we'll get to the list of 30 below!)
There are tons plant-based sources of protein that can be incorporated into a balanced diet. Some of my favs include:
Beans: Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are awesome sources of protein. They are also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Legumes can be enjoyed in soups, stews, salads, or made into delicious plant-based patties.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a versatile grain-like seed that is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It's also a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, and other nutrients. Quinoa can be used as a base for salads, added to stir-fries, or enjoyed as a side dish.
Tofu and Tempeh: Tofu and tempeh are soy-based foods that are rich in protein. They are also excellent sources of calcium and iron. Tofu has a soft texture and absorbs flavors well, making it suitable for stir-fries, curries, and even desserts. Tempeh has a firmer texture and can be grilled, baked, or crumbled into different dishes.
Edamame: Edamame refers to young soybeans that are harvested before they fully mature. These beans are packed with protein and fiber, and they make for a nutritious snack or can be added to salads, stir-fries, or soups.
Seitan: Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, is a high-protein meat substitute derived from wheat. It has a chewy texture and absorbs flavors well. Seitan can be used as a substitute for meat in stir-fries, sandwiches, and stews. (It is not suitable for a gluten free diet. )
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are examples of nuts and seeds that contain protein. They are also rich in healthy fats, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds can be eaten as snacks, added to smoothies, or used as toppings for salads and desserts.
How much protein does a women over 40 need?
Let's talk about protein needs for women in their 30s and 40s since most of my readers are in that age bracket.
The protein needs of women in their 40s can vary depending on factors such as individual body composition, activity level, overall health, and specific goals. For women in this age group, however, the recommended daily protein intake lies between 46 grams and 56 grams.
It's worth noting that these guidelines are based on average requirements and may not be applicable to everyone. Some women may require higher protein intake, especially if they are physically active, engaged in strength training, or have specific health conditions. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can assess your specific needs and provide personalized recommendations.
Keep in mind that it's important to focus on eating protein sources evenly (or, as evenly as possible) throughout the day rather than eating it all in one meal. Protein synthesis is optimized this way, and amino acids are supplied to the body in a steady supply.
Remember that protein is just one aspect of a well-balanced diet, and it's important to consume a variety of other nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to support overall health and well-being!
The list of 30 sources of vegan protein is below, but first keep in mind...
These protein amounts are approximate and can vary slightly depending on the brand, preparation method, and specific product. It's essential to check nutrition labels or use reliable sources for accurate protein content information.
Remember that while protein is important, it's also really important to eat a balanced diet that includes other essential nutrients. Incorporating a variety of these plant-based protein sources into your meals and snacks can help you meet your protein needs while enjoying a diverse (delicious) and nutritious diet.
30 plant-based protein sources
Here's the list of plant-based protein sources in descending order based on their approximate protein content per serving:
Tempeh (4 ounces): 21 grams of protein
Seitan (3 ounces): 20 grams of protein
Chickpea flour (1 cup): 20 grams of protein
Lentils (1 cup, cooked): 18 grams of protein
Edamame (1 cup, cooked): 17 grams of protein
Kidney beans (1 cup, cooked): 15 grams of protein
Pinto beans (1 cup, cooked): 15 grams of protein
Black beans (1 cup, cooked): 15 grams of protein
Chickpeas (1 cup, cooked): 15 grams of protein
Lima beans (1 cup, cooked): 15 grams of protein
Greek yogurt alternative (6 ounces): 12 grams of protein (varies by brand)
Tofu (4 ounces): 9 grams of protein
Amaranth (1 cup, cooked): 9 grams of protein
Hemp seeds (2 tablespoons): 9 grams of protein
Soy milk (1 cup): 9 grams of protein (Trader Joes Brand)
Peanut butter (2 tablespoons): 8 grams of protein
Quinoa (1 cup, cooked): 8 grams of protein
Pumpkin seeds (¼ cup): 8 grams of protein
Green peas (1 cup, cooked): 8 grams of protein
Nutritional yeast (2 tablespoons): 8 grams of protein
Wild rice (1 cup, cooked): 7 grams of protein
Sunflower seeds (¼ cup): 6 grams of protein
Almonds (¼ cup): 6 grams of protein
Buckwheat (1 cup, cooked): 6 grams of protein
Oats (½ cup, dry): 6 grams of protein
Brown rice (1 cup, cooked): 5 grams of protein
Chia seeds (2 tablespoons): 4 grams of protein
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, etc.): Varying amounts of protein (typically 2-5 grams per cooked cup)
Spirulina (1 tablespoon): 4 grams of protein
Flaxseeds (2 tablespoons): 3 grams of protein
Bonus! Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti (2 oz): 24 grams protein
Bonus! Explore Cuisine Organic Chickpea Fusili (2 oz): 14 grams protein
Remember that these protein amounts are approximate and can vary slightly depending on various factors such as cooking methods and specific brands or varieties of the food.
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