Committing to a plant-based diet sounds difficult, but it’s less extreme and even more beneficial than you might think. Not only does it lighten the load at the grocery store (as plant-based proteins generally cost less than meat), but it’s well suited to meet the body’s needs.
Plant-based proteins can promote heart health, help to reduce blood pressure, support weight loss goals, and improve digestive system wellness. Better still, the number of available ingredients and recipes for vegetarian diets and vegan diets is growing more robust each day. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, quick or complex, there’s a plant-based dish that meets your protein needs and delivers on all your favorite flavors.
Here’s everything you need to know about transitioning away from eating animal products and animal proteins every day to consuming more plant-based foods, including the benefits of eating plant-based meat substitutes and great options available to choose from.
Whether you’ve been eating vegan and vegetarian dishes for many years or you’re looking to transition to vegan proteins for the very first time, it helps to understand your options. Let’s take a closer look at plant-based proteins and the many health benefits you enjoy when you eat more plant-based proteins.
What are plant-based proteins?
As you might’ve guessed, plant-based proteins are edible plants that contain a significant amount of protein. In many modern diets, we rely on animal protein from meats or animal by-products like dairy to get our daily source of protein.
The truth is that you can get just as much protein from a high-quality vegan diet or plant-based diet — so long as you put some thought into it. Protein is important for the development of children and for pregnant women, in particular, but it has benefits for everyone. Composed of essential amino acids, it helps your body to repair and grow cells, and it’s useful for reducing muscle loss and maintaining healthy body weight.
The amount of protein we need throughout the day depends on weight and activity level. Plants contain a significant amount of protein, and it’s easy to meet your protein needs with a few simple and delicious dishes.
What are the benefits of plant-based proteins?
Plant-based proteins are easy to integrate into your diet and provide many health benefits. Their increased fiber can help to regulate the digestive system and lower cholesterol, and they’re great for sustainable weight loss and reducing body weight. Plant-based protein diets have also been shown to reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Types of Plant Proteins
One of the reasons it’s so easy to add high-protein plant products to your diet is that there are just so many to pick from. No matter what dishes you like best, there’s a plant protein perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here’s a closer look at some of the tastiest plant-based proteins.
Chickpeas are an incredibly versatile and easy-to-cook legume. They can be eaten in salads, cooked in curries, or blended to make hummus. They mix well with a range of veggies and herbs, and contain the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients to stay regular, strong, and energized throughout the day. And, of course, chickpeas are high in protein, at about 14.5 grams of protein per one-cup serving.
Beans are another great plant-based proteins option, and there are a lot of different types to choose from. The protein content available in beans is big: Black beans deliver 15.2 grams of protein per cup; split peas have 16.3 grams of protein per cup; and edamame, or boiled soybeans, have on an impressive 18.4 grams of protein per cup. Beans also deliver fiber and antioxidants, and they’ve been shown to support both gut and heart health.
Even if you don’t follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you likely reach for nuts when you need a filling snack on the go. That’s because nuts are high in protein — walnuts have a protein content of 4.45 grams per quarter cup (that’s about a handful of nuts); pistachios have a protein content of 6.2 grams per quarter cup; and Brazil nuts have a protein content of about 4.75 grams per quarter cup. Better still, nuts can be eaten with zero preparation, which makes them the ideal for times when you’re hungry but don’t have time to sit down and eat. They can also be toasted, baked into your favorite protein muffins, or sprinkled over a spring salad.
4. Whole Grains
Plant-based proteins actually comprise most of the ingredients in our most popular meals. They include grains, like quinoa, which can be used as a side dish, a bed for salads, and a whole lot more. Quinoa is a type of carbohydrate that has about 6 grams of protein per cooked cup. One of the reasons it’s such a great addition to any plant-based diet is that it pairs well with other plant-based ingredients and vegetables. Consider a harvest bowl with chickpeas and leafy greens or a quinoa and harvest salad for your next picnic.
5. Leafy Greens
What’s better than a leafy green stir fry with rich spices and plenty of protein? Leafy greens like spinach contain protein and many other nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin B12. It also has a protein content of 5.53 grams per cooked cup. Other great options for protein-containing leafy greens include bok choy and alfalfa sprouts. Leafy greens also make great side dishes and add-ins for smoothies. Apart from leafy greens, other green vegetables like broccoli, with a protein content of 3.72 grams (cooked) per cup, and Brussels sprouts (cooked), with 4 grams of protein per cup make fantastic plant-based stir fry components.
Tofu can be cooked in many different ways, from grilled to pan-fried and almost anything in between. Its subtle flavor makes it ideally suited for dishes with lots of herbs and spices, and it pairs well with almost all other plant-based proteins. Better still, tofu (raw) delivers about 21.8 grams of protein per half cup, and it’s considered a “complete protein” (meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids your body should be getting from food). These amino acids are the building blocks of — you guessed it — protein. Fiber and vitamins and nutrients like magnesium, iron, and potassium are also present in tofu. Oh, and did I mention that it’s gluten-free?
There are many reasons to consider adding plant-based foods to your diet, be it pea protein, lentils, chia seeds, or seitan. With numerous options to choose from, it’s easier than you’d think to swap out or transition away from animal proteins entirely. Plant-based proteins offer more than enough protein for the day, and they’re good for the heart and the digestive system. They’re rich in many different nutrients and vitamins, and they keep you filled and satisfied all day long. Plus, you can’t go wrong with salty, sweet, and savory meals and snacks that boost your energy and taste great.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.