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Eating a plant-based diet is trendy, but it’s also good for your health.
Plant-based foods tend to cut out the excess salt, fat, and sugars found in processed meat-based foods; plus, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are high in fiber and vitamins.
There’s also been a recent surge in the popularity of meat substitutes like soy, tofu, and seitan, all of which help reduce your chances of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and other life-limiting illnesses.
However, one of the issues with a plant-based diet can be a lack of protein.
Meat is one of the most easily absorbed forms of protein available to us, but it’s a myth that you can’t get enough protein from plants—you simply have to eat the right ones.
RELATED: Are You Vegan? Here’s How to Add More Protein to Your Diet
What Plants Have Protein?
Here are 72 fantastic plant-based protein sources to incorporate in your diet. With the sheer number of choices, you won’t get bored any time soon—unlike your friend, who just ordered a chicken fillet for the hundredth time this year.
Let’s Start with Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes (that’s anything in a pod) contain amino acids, the chemicals that combine to form protein and help build and repair muscle.
Eating beans with rice provides a complete protein source, so whip up a tasty bean curry with rice—or a pea, edamame, and pinto bean risotto.
For snacks, dip whole-wheat bread into protein-rich hummus, but be careful of hummus fat content that can scupper your diet plans.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds have plenty of protein, and they are packed with heart-healthy fatty acids, too.
Nuts make easy-to-carry plant-based protein-filled snacks. Munch on a few nuts each day instead of pastries or cakes, and add seeds to your morning cereal.
Crushed nuts and seeds—especially pumpkin seeds—are delicious on toast, and you can spread tahini on anything.
Whole grains are packed with plant-based protein, and they’re one of the best choices for good bowel health. Whole grains scrape the lower bowel clean and ensure that you go to the bathroom regularly.
If you’re eating lots of whole grains, drink plenty of water, too.
Swap out white bread and pasta for whole-grain versions, such as Ezekiel bread, and make yourself some homemade flapjacks with steel cut oats.
Wondering about buckwheat? Gently toast some in a pan and toss it over softened carrots or sprinkle it over soup.
Fruits are lower in protein than other food groups on this list, but it’s still worth tucking in—not just for plant-based protein, but for the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they provide.
Fruits containing the most protein are:
Add sun-dried tomatoes to your pizza, pasta, or bolognese, and chop them in a lunchtime sandwich for all the summertime flavors.
Fruit is a handy snack if you’re feeling peckish, and avocado on toast is heavenly. Just mash an avocado and apply it to toast—whole grain, of course! Then grind pepper on top and finish with a splash of hot sauce or lemon juice.
Veggies are full of antioxidants, especially dark leafy greens. Ensure that you eat the stalk of green leafy veg as well as the tips for the most plant-based protein.
If you don’t like veggies that much, add them to a smoothie. Kale, spinach, and asparagus are great smoothie ingredients and really pack a healthy punch.
Toss bean sprouts into your stir-fry and bake up some old-fashioned baked potatoes—make sure you eat the skin and go easy on the butter.
Mushrooms are a great source of plant-based protein, and they are available in a variety of strengths and flavors—from mild field mushrooms through to shitake and oyster, which are the most expensive but have more taste.
Mushrooms can take the place of meat, so swap steak for a large mushroom baked with canned tomatoes and stilton, or chop up shitakes and toss them in olive oil for a tasty pie filling.
Nutritional yeast tastes like cheese, so sprinkle it over anything cheese pairs with. The list is endless!
Meat substitutes are made from different plant sources. Mycoprotein is fungi-based, whereas tofu is made from soybeans, but commercially they are formed to resemble meat such as a scallop or chicken nugget. You can buy them in cubes and sauces if you don’t like mock meat.
Tofu works best if you marinate it overnight, so planning is required. Soaking tofu—or any of the above meat substitutes—in a black bean marinade or a sticky savory sauce is delicious. Eat it with a bean and wild rice salad for a full-on plant-based protein boost.
RELATED: Top 10 Plant Protein Foods Every Vegetarian LOVES
How Much Plant-Based Protein Do I Need?
The Dietary Reference Intake suggests the minimum amount of protein you need each day is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
So, if you weigh 63.5 kilograms, you’ll need around 50 grams of protein. Intake needs vary depending on your activity levels, though, and athletes will need more.
Is Plant-Based Protein Good for You?
If you choose a healthy plant-based protein over fatty meats, you’ll reap the benefits of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are contained in plants.
These heart-healthy dietary additions can fight against heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, and stroke.
So why not leave that tedious chicken breast in the supermarket? Plant-based protein sources are healthy, environmentally friendly, cruelty-free, and you’ve got no worries about getting enough protein from them if you choose the right types.
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