One thing is clear: including healthy sources of protein in your everyday diet is a must. Protein is your ally to maintain muscle mass, help your organs work the way they should, and other several important bodily functions.
We’d bet an arm on what you’re thinking right now: Gabfoods is about to tell me I need to eat more chicken breasts than usual if I want to make it to my daily protein goals. Far from that peeps, the truth is there are many options other than meat to reach your protein goals.
Vegetable Proteins, Really?
Wait what? Are we talking vegetable protein? Yes indeed! Even when following a vegan diet, there are enough plant foods to help meet your protein needs. Amongst the vegetable-rich proteins that can be included in your meals, there are legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Plus if you’re vegetarian, you can also get your proteins by adding milk, dairy products, or eggs to your recipes.
Let’s Dig a Little Deeper
We’re making a summary for your convenience on some of the alternative foods that can help you fulfill your daily protein intake:
- Lentils: A protein powerhouse stuffed into a tiny package! Whether they’re brown, green, or red, adding half a cup of cooked lentils to soups, curries, tacos or salads adds about 12 grams of protein to your meal. And they are also a wonderful source of fiber and complex carbohydrates. So tiny so great!
- Quinoa: This pseudocereal contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. One cup of cooked quinoa also has fiber and is rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and iron among other nutrients. Ok ok, those sound like weird words, but here’s the take. Have you ever thought of quinoa as a potential breakfast? ‘Cause we have! You should try cooking it in milk or water and stir in diced fresh fruit, cinnamon, and a tablespoon of nuts. Yes, just like oats. And yes, our mouths are watering as well! For lunch/dinner try swapping quinoa instead of macaroni to your pasta salad recipes (and the pro-tip? you’ll also be getting a nice gluten-free swap too!).
- Pumpkin seeds: Just about 30 grams of pumpkin seeds can give you more protein than an egg can! Of course, it also has more nice things, like they are also rich in antioxidants which can help reduce stress and keep your body fit while leaving gorgeous skin. That’s it, looking radiant is tastier than ever! You can add pumpkin seeds everywhere: soups, salads, or have them as a snack!
- Edamame: These boiled green soybeans are more than a tasty appetizer or snack! One cup of peeled edamame packs 18 grams of protein, along with a good amount of fiber and calcium and two key antioxidants: vitamins C and A. Thinking about where to have them? Use the shelled edamame in casseroles, soups, stews, and rice dishes.
- Amaranth: This tiny but powerful super grain is a good protein source (naturally gluten-free!) and also presents some impressive nutritional stats. It has 26 grams of protein per cup and lysine. It also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. All in one with this one!
- Chia seeds: Don’t be fooled by their size (wink wink) these seeds deliver a great number of nutrients and very few calories. 28 grams of chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, iron, and calcium. Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet: you can add them to pretty much anything. From porridge to smoothies and many in between. Need more ideas? Works really well on baked goods, to make chia-seed jam for your breakfast toasts, or a pudding with coconut milk!
- Tempeh: Now this fermented soy product is a game-changer! Tempeh provides around 19g of protein per 100 grams and is made from soybeans (and often ingredients like grains and legumes) that have been pressed together and fermented. Tempeh is used for a variety of different recipes. Chop or slice the tempeh and then dunk in a marinade for at least two hours for an extra flavor or make a wrap out of it by thinly slicing it and sautée-ing tempeh. Taco Tuesday? Use grated tempeh crumbs as a meatless filling.
- Broccoli: With 2.57 grams per cup, this green option is higher in protein than most vegetables. It also provides a lot of fiber along with, noteworthy, amounts of vitamins K, C, A, E, and B (yep we’re reciting the abecedary), plus minerals. How to cook it? Broccoli is richer in nutrients when raw. If you rather eat it cooked, boil it for 5 minutes or less. Use it as a base or side dish for a low-carb meal. Or bake it until the edges of the broccoli turn light brown and crisp and sprinkle it with an extra flavor of Parmesan cheese.
- Tofu: Yet another soy by-product that will have you salivating! Tofu contains 8% of protein, is high in calcium, and will help in cholesterol and triglycerides reduction. For women, there are even more perks! This magic ingredient will also help you balance your estrogen levels. Tofu can be cooked and eaten in almost any way: from raw to cooked, and many in between, even as part of a smoothie. At Gabfoods, you can order our Bibimbap with tofu to make the classic Korean dish vegan.
Animal products like dairy, fish, or eggs contain enough of every one of the required amino acids. However, many plant sources of protein might be incomplete protein sources: they are too low or missing some of the essential amino acids. Rest assured, a well-planned diet without animal products can be totally complete. Whether you're vegetarian, pescetarian, or eat some meat from time to time, you can benefit from plant proteins by diversifying your diet and adding nutrients and new flavors to your menu.
How many of the above alternatives did you know? The team is a huge fan of lentils. What about you? Tell us your favorite!