5 Great Sources of Plant-Based Protein

December 4, 2017
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People are interested in following vegetarian or vegan diets or reducing their use of animal products


Although vegans and vegetarians may be the biggest consumers of plant-based protein foods, they certainly shouldn’t be the only ones. Research shows that the rate at which Americans consume meat is unsustainable—it takes a huge toll on the environment to raise animals for food. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that 51 percent or more of yearly greenhouse-gas emission are caused by animal agriculture.

This doesn’t mean that you should cut out meat completely, but you could probably benefit from cutting down on it. Not only is limiting your meat intake better for the environment, but it’s better for your health. People who eat more plant-based protein than animal protein have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and are at less of a risk of developing diabetes.

Meatless Mondays, anyone? If you eat meat daily, start with cutting it out just one day a week—Mondays, for example. When buying poultry, eggs, and dairy products, go local and organic to cut down on environmental stress.

Eat these incredibly nutritious foods for your plant-based protein.

1. Lentils

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Lentils have the most protein of any legume, with 18g per 1-cup serving, cooked. For reference, that is the same amount of protein available in a 2-oz serving of chicken breast. Lentils are an excellent alternative to meat because they are inexpensive, versatile, and easy to cook.

They are also rich in other macros- and micro-nutrients including fiber, folate (90% of your recommended daily intake!), thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.

2. Edamame

You may be familiar with edamame as a salty appetizer in your local Japanese restaurant, but did you know that it’s one of the best sources of plant-based protein? With 17g of protein per 1-cup serving, this simple yet delicious soybean packs a mean nutritious profile. One serving has more than 100% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of folate or folic acid. In addition, it’s an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

You can find these babies in the frozen vegetable section of your supermarket. Steam them up with some coarse salt, and you’re good to go.

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3. Quinoa

This ‘pseudo-grain’ (it’s actually a berry!) contains 8g of protein per cooked cup and a whole lot of essential vitamins and minerals to boot. It’s affordable, vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and easy to come by, so you can pick it up at your local supermarket or order it in a local restaurant.

4. Hemp Seeds

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Yes, they are botanically related to cannabis. No, they will not get you high. Hemp seeds are ridiculously nutritious food. They are made from 25% protein, 73% fats, and 2% carbs. The fats that makeup hemp seeds are the good kind of fat—the healthy omega-3 fatty acids that we all need to eat more of. Just two tablespoons of these seeds provide 10g of protein.

Research shows that hemp seeds possess powerful antioxidant properties and provide many health benefits.

5. Collard greens

You may be surprised at how much protein dark leafy green vegetables can provide. Aside from their well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, many of them are 15-50% protein.

A 1-cup serving of cooked collard greens contains 4g of protein. Other vegetables which contain a surprising amount of protein: watercress, spinach, kale, bok choy, asparagus, mustard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

For optimal health eat a variety of foods. Plant-based protein sources tend to be affordable, versatile, and rich in many nutrients, so add them to your diet!

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Photo by zi3000/Shutterstock.com