Protein is one of the most important nutrients we need to live a healthy life. It's a major building block that helps maintain and grow our muscles, tendons, and skin tissues. It also helps us produce antibodies to ward off infections and diseases. You'll need more protein if you're an athlete with high muscle mass or if you're an expecting mother or breastfeeding. Needless to say, protein is a critical nutrient we need to include in our daily diet.
Many people think it's hard to get enough protein or "complete" protein (all 9 essential amino acids) from a plant-based diet because you're not eating any animal meats or animal-based foods. That's not true. You can actually get all the amino acids and enough protein if you consume a little bit each day.
That doesn't mean switching from veggie pizzas to Margherita flat breads or popcorn to corn chips are going to cut it though! You still need to focus on eating natural, wholesome foods and less processed foods. They key is to eat a variety of plant-based foods over the course of a few days and your body will naturally gather the right nutrients together, at the right time. So keep your menus fresh and change the flavors often!
There are quite a few different options for vegan protein available nowadays. There's even more choices with the new food tech out there like beyond meat or good catch. Here's a few of our personal favorites in no real order:
- Tofu, Edamame, Tempeh, Soy - Salads, stir fry, soups, and more. There are so many ways to cook and enjoy foods from this group. Lightly salted edamame is a great snack any day of the week. Soy does get some negative press though. Always enjoy in moderation.
- Chickpeas, Lentils, Black Beans - Delicious and full of protein here. We're always interested in a good hummus dip or a hearty lentil soup on a cold day, and we love black beans in our veggie burritos.
- Leafy Greens & Veggies - This group includes avocados, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, kale, and spinach, to name a few. What's there not to like here? So many different ways to prepare them and they always make us happy! =)
- Brown Rice - Yummy, economical, and packed with fiber. We love using brown rice as our base when preparing Latin cuisines or Asian curries. (We recently discovered Sutharos Thai curries)
- Potatoes - These are a great way to fill you up and get some protein at the same time. We really love gold or yellow potatoes but won't turn down a red or russet either! To us, potatoes are loaded with natural flavor already so we can eat them boiled, baked, or mashed without adding much, but pan-fried with some onions is always nice too.
- Nuts and Seeds - Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios! Packed with other nutrients, healthy fats, and antioxidants as well as protein. These guys are great as snacks and perfect as toppings, but you already know that, don't you? =) We reach for a handful in the morning to pair with a super light breakfast or even after the gym as a quick snack and a source of clean protein to help our muscle growth. Almonds and pistachios have the most protein of the three but walnuts aren't too far behind. Try our 2oz almonds to get you what you need when you're on the run. Those new clear packages are compostable too!
- Honorable mentions: Quinoa, chia seeds, oats, seitan, tempeh, plant-based beverages, Ezekiel bread, spirulina
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