Majority of the people source their everyday needs of protein from various forms of meat and other animal products such as chicken, fish, steak, eggs, & dairy. However, vegetarians, vegans or a person who wants to restrict the amount of meat and/or other animal products for any reason, have no choice but to depend on plants to meet their daily protein needs.
If you follow a plant-based diet or if you are looking for a diet that includes animal products as well as a variety of plant products, you don’t have to worry about meeting your body protein needs. Read on here for several protein choices beyond the chicken, red meat & other animal sources.
In this article, you will find the best plant based protein options to meet the protein needs of the individuals who are vegetarians or vegans.
Amino Acids – The Indispensables
Though, adopting a plant-based diet has its own health benefits, yet it is nevertheless necessary to ensure that you get everything that your body needs, especially the proper amount of protein. Proteins are one of the 3 macronutrients— together with carbs & fats—that are necessary to the human diet. Macronutrients affect your energy levels, ability to recover from workouts, appetite & the sense of being full.
Actually, there are 21 amino acids that make up the proteins. Out of 21, your body can produce only twelve on its own; the other 9 are the essential amino acids, which you must get from food. The human body cannot function without a diet rich in essential amino acids. Proteins quality varies depending upon the number of amino acids they contain. The animal protein ranks higher than the plant proteins, in terms quality and the number of essential amino acids they provide. If you are not a meat eater and depends on plant-based protein sources then your diet must include a variety of foods to make sure that you get proper intake of the right amount of amino acids.
Plant-Based Protein Sources
There are a large number of plants that provide protein. Plant sources range from grains to leafy greens. These options pack a punch and help to keep your diet in good form.
(i) Legumes/Lentils:They are great plant based sources of protein and serve as ingredients in a wide range of plant-based eating options. For example, beans mixed with rice offer a complete protein. Chickpeas are a great protein source and can be eaten whole tossed with spices or can be curdled into hummus, or even added to curries or soups. Lentils/legumes can be used as a great ingredient in making both salads and soups.
(ii) Soybeans are considered as a complete protein as they provide all 9 essential amino acids. Edamame, tofu, and tempeh are the common, well-known soybean products.
(a) Edamame – They are immature soybeans, and are generally steamed or boiled before eaten. They’re a common addition to soups & salads.
(b) Tofu – It’s made from the bean curds, which the vegetarians or vegans can include in their diet as a meat substitute.
(c) Tempeh – It is cooked, fermented soybeans & then formed into a patty. It is high in protein, fiber, & vitamins.
(iii) Nuts And Seeds: Almonds serve as an excellent snack on their own or as almond butter or added to a salad.
Chia seeds can be eaten with just about anything such as smoothies, salads, oatmeal, etc.
(iv) Vegetables also offer reasonably good amount of protein. Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and asparagus are easy options for including in your diet as extra sources of protein without adding extra calories. These foods will also provide you with a range of vitamins and other important nutrients to make a wholesome, healthy diet.
(v) Nutritional yeast: It’s a kind of deactivated yeast, and is a non-dairy cheese substitute. You can add it to mashed potatoes and can be used to make a vegan cheese sauce. Fortified nutritional yeast also provides extra nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
Protein powder is a well-known, great way to sneak in good amount of extra protein into your diet, especially in case of more active individuals such as the trainers & exercisers. If you are looking for plant-based protein powders, here are the best options to meet your needs.
Pea Protein Powder
It’s gluten-free as well as dairy-free, and is a well-known plant-based protein. Moreover, it does not have many of the other common food allergens – which shellfish, fish, eggs, peanuts or soy may contain. Pea protein is rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps gain muscles. It’s made by grinding the peas into a powder, and then eliminating the starch and fiber therefrom. It is generally added to smoothies & shakes.
Hemp Protein Powder
Made by grounding hemp seeds, hemp protein is great source of plant protein. It provides all 9 essential amino acids, thus can serve as a complete protein choice. It is one of the less processed plant-based protein powders, making it more popular with many people. Moreover, hemp protein is a rich source of fiber, providing 8 grams of fiber per serving.
Rice-Based Protein Powder
It is another plant-based protein source, but is not as much popular as pea or hemp protein. It is made from brown rice, by treating brown rice with certain enzymes that segregate the protein from the carbohydrates. Because it doesn’t have all of the 9 essential amino acids (like it is too low in lysine), so other proteins (such as chia seeds or quinoa) are often added.
For your ready reference, here are some examples of plant protein:
(i) Almonds: 1/2 cup = 16 grams of protein
(ii) 1 large potato = 8 grams of protein
(iii) Black beans: 1/2 cup = 6 grams
(iv) Chickpeas: 1/2 cup = 7 grams
(v) Hemp proteins: 1/4 cup = 15 grams
(vi) Lentils: 1 cup = 18 grams
(vii) Peanuts: 1/2 cup = 20 grams
(viii) Pea protein: 20 grams = 15 grams
(ix) Quinoa: 1 cup = 8 grams
(x) Tempeh: 1/2 cup = 15 (xi) Tofu: 1/2 cup = 10 grams