Proteins are the building blocks of life - in the body, they break down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. They also take longer to digest than carbohydrates, helping you feel fuller for longer and on fewer calories—a plus for anyone trying to lose weight. You probably know that animal products—meat, eggs and dairy—are the most recognized sources of protein in the market. Unfortunately, they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. What you may not know is that you don't need to eat meat or dairy to get enough protein! Here is a list of my everyday meatless protein sources...
1. Leafy Greens.
Yep, eating all that spinach and kale is a great way to fill up on protein. Although they don't have as much as legumes, leafy greens do contain significant amount of protein - along with lots of antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber. If you’re eating a wide variety of vegetables and leafy greens, you‘ll likely have enough protein in your day. I like to add a handful of them to every smoothie - an extra handful of nutrients never hurts!
Filling, tasty and able to be made in a variety of ways, legumes are my favorite way to get my protein. For example, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) have around 7.3 g of protein in half a cup and beans 26 g per two cups. I like to buy them dry and cook them from scratch, but you can still get all the benefits from canned legumes, just watch out for high sodium levels!
3. Nuts, seeds and nut butters.
Nuts contain good fats and proteins, but because they are high in calories people tend to shy away from them. If you are having nuts as snack, choose unsalted nuts, preferably raw or roasted. Add sesame seeds to your salads (instead of oil) to get a crunchy texture, yummy taste and healthy fats all at the same time. Nut butters are also great to add to your diet - just make sure what you’re buying is made with as few ingredients as possible and keep an eye on those sugar levels. You can also make them at home, it’s actually quite easy! Inspiration here.
Most grains contain a small amount of protein, but quinoa is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. Because of that, it's often referred to as a "perfect protein." I like to add it in to my lunch, my breakfast and even soups!
5. Protein Powders
I've heard so many controversial thoughts on this, but if you are worried that going vegan will affect your muscle gain then definitely get yourself a tub of plant-based protein powder. Choose brands that offer organically sourced protein that you can trust. Ora Organic offers an USDA approved organic protein powder made entirely from whole foods. Oh and it tastes like a vanilla chai latte. #winning!
Just remember we are what we eat, so eat right and you’ll feel amazing. Now it’s your turn, what are your favorite protein sources?