The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Michael Kummer.
The global demand for plant-based foods is drastically on the rise. What is driving this movement? Health, environmental, sustainability and animal welfare are all reasons why many people are making the shift to a more plant-based lifestyle.
With what seems to be more and more studies coming out stating the health and environmental implications caused by animal products the general population is reaching for plant-based options instead.
In 2015 the World Health Organization came out saying that processed meat is linked to an increase chance in cancer. Health Canada is even set to revise the Canada Food Guide this year, eliminating the Milk and Alternatives group and instead will be advocating a shift towards more plant-based sources of protein.
What about Protein?
We all know that protein is an essential part of our diet. Protein helps to build, maintain and repair our muscles and tissues, it is the building block for our bones, skin and blood.
Protein is needed in the body to make enzymes, hormones and other critical body chemicals as well as increasing the capacity of our brain. It clearly plays an important role in our body and it is important to consume enough of it.
What is a good source of a plant protein?
Animal Protein Vs. Plant-Based Protein
One of the main differences between animal protein and plant protein is their amino acid portfolio. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein — meaning they play a crucial role in carrying out various bodily functions and give cells their structure.
There are nine essential amino acids the body needs to carry out proper and optimal function. These nine amino acids are what are a complete protein.
Animal based proteins typically have all nine amino acids making them a complete protein. Plants on the other hand are generally missing at least one amino acid (or more) making them an incomplete source of protein. Buckwheat, quinoa and tofu, however, are among some of the plant-based protein that carries all nine essential amino acids.
When eating a plant-based diet it is important to eat a variety of proteins. While many plant-based foods are not complete protein on their own, when you eat enough of a variety of plant protein sources your body works to make complete proteins.
How Can You Get Protein Without Eating Meat?
TIP: If eating a more plant-based diet it is vital to eat a range of protein sources to ensure your body can create complete proteins! What are your favorite protein sources?
Here is a visual reminder of some great plant-based protein options:
Sources Of Plant-Based Proteins And Easy Meal Ideas
Peanut Butter (25g protein per 100g)
A childhood staple that is highly consumed by many around the world. Whether it is an ingredient in a main dish or dessert or it is the star of the show and eaten right off the spoon, it is a crowd favorite.
A childhood staple that is a good source of: protein, dietary fiber, vitamin B3, vitamin E, folate and magnesium.
However, peanut butter is a high calorie food and can be easy to over consume – make sure to eat in moderation. Peanut butter is a bit of a health controversy. Is it healthy? Is it not? Peanut butter has been under fire for its contamination of aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are fungal produced toxins that grow on certain foods, peanuts being one.
While natural, these toxins are harmful to human and animal ingestion when consumed in large amounts. The FDA allows low level of aflatoxins in food (20ppb for peanut butter) because it is considered an unavoidable contaminant. In North America, there are food safety regulations put in place to ensure the public’s safety regarding aflatoxin consumption, it is a larger problem in developing countries.
Oats (16.9g of protein per 100g)
Hot oats, overnight oats, added to smoothies and shakes, oats are an awesome plant-based breakfast option for those looking to get in some more protein.
Oats are packed with nutrition. Not only do oats have roughly 4g of protein per ⅓ cup serving, they are also packed with nutrition. A great source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, folate, vitamin B1 and B5.
Not only are oats good for your health they are also good for the environment and are often used as a natural herbicide.
Eating too many oats can have a less than desired effect on your digestion. Over consumption of oats (which will vary for everyone) can be quite problematic. Typically, a result from the high fiber, oatmeal can lead to uncomfortable stomach pains, gas and bloating. A sudden increase in your daily fiber intake can result in constipation.
Chia Seeds (16.5g protein per 100g)
An edible seed native to Central America, chia seeds have come into the limelight in the health world the past decade or so and are now a staple at any health food store. Chia seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in liquid, giving them a gel-like texture.
One serving of chia seeds (28g) contains 5.6g of protein. Chia seeds when mixed with some water are often used as a plant-based egg substitute in cooking.
A superstar in the superfood world, chia seeds seem to have it all — what they also have that many people don’t talk about are some not so nice side effects, which could potentially include, bleeding and dropping in blood pressure. Due to the high amounts of omega- 3, chia seeds can act as a blood thinner.
Easy Plant-Based Protein Packed Breakfast Recipe: Peanut Butter Chia Bars
Walnuts (15g of protein per 100g)
Loved for their sweet nutty taste and smell, walnuts, although mostly known for their healthy fat content, also provide a healthy dose of plant-based protein.
A great choice packed with a powerful health punch. One-quarter cup provides you with protein, more than 100% of your daily recommended value of omega-3 fats, copper, manganese and biotin. Walnuts are filled with antioxidants and can help lower cancer risks. A heart healthy option, walnuts has many vascular benefits and even promotes improved sperm quality in men.
Walnuts are a calorie dense food and should be consumed in moderation. Due to the high fat, oil and fiber content present in walnuts it can lead to diarrhea if consumed in great quantities in a short amount of time.
Pumpkin Seeds (29.8g of protein per 100g)
Great as a quick snack on-the-go or thrown into a dish for an extra hit of plant-based protein.
Pumpkin seeds are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. Pumpkin seeds also contain; healthy omega-6 fat, vitamin K, Phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper.
Like many foods that are high in fiber, pumpkin seeds can lead to some gastrointestinal problems, varying from constipation, bloating and diarrhea. If you experience these symptoms try cutting your serving down to see if the lower fiber eliminates these symptoms.
Flax Seeds (18.3g protein per 100g)
Flax seeds are awesome because they are easy to throw into cereals, smoothies and main dishes to increase the meals protein and nutritional value. They also offer a nice nutty like flavor.
Filled with fiber and heart healthy properties, flax is getting a good rep. There are many studies being done to explore the benefits of flax seeds to link it to lowering blood pressure, cancer prevention and relief of menopausal symptoms.
Note: When shopping it is best to buy ground flax seeds.. Whole flax seeds tend to pass right through the body without digesting.
Out of all the seeds, flax seeds are the quickest to go rancid. This is due to the high amount of fatty acid within the oils of the seed. Many people often consume rancid flax seeds and by doing so they are harming their body’s and their health. Rancid oil is full of free radicals, which are toxic to the body and destroy healthy cells and weakens the immune system. Keep a close eye on your flax seeds and be sure to properly store them to prevent them from becoming rancid.
Easy Plant-Based Protein Packed Breakfast Recipe: Homemade Protein Granola
Chickpeas (19g protein per 100g)
Chickpeas, a legume, are often the star in many vegetarian protein favorites, including, hummus and falafels.
Chickpeas, commonly referred to as garbanzo beans are a great source of plant protein. Along with vitamins, minerals and fiber (which we all know is good for us), chickpeas are inexpensive. Buying a bag of uncooked chickpeas and cooking them yourself can be as cheap as $0.13 per ½ cup serving!
While being protein rich, chickpeas are also higher in carbs. Depending on your macronutrient needs, this choice might be a bit carb heavy. Some people may also experience stomach pains, bloating and gas — likely as a result from the increased fiber.
When consuming more beans in your diet, including chickpeas, be sure you are drinking enough water to help with your increased fiber intake.
Easy Protein Plant-Based “Tuna” Salad Recipe: Mock Tuna Salad
Quinoa (4.4g protein per 100g *cooked*)
Quinoa is flowering plant, known for its edible seeds. With a fluffy texture and a nutty flavor, quinoa is great on its own or as an addition to a meal.
Quinoa is a seed and is naturally a great source of magnesium, iron, potassium and vitamin E. Quinoa contains antioxidants including two important types of flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, known to help fight free radicals.
Some people after eating quinoa may develop an allergy or an intolerance to it. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to; skin inflammation, itchiness, hives, nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea. These reactions are likely caused by sponin. Saponin is a chemical that is found on the coating of quinoa seeds. Saponin is what can also give quinoa a bitter taste. To avoid this bitter taste and to remove the seeds natural coating of saponin, try washing your quinoa well before cooking.
Easy Protein Plant-Based Sushi Recipe: Quinoa Sushi
Lentils (9g protein per 100g *cooked*)
Originally known in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.now enjoyed globally, lentils are a staple for many vegetarians as a source of protein.
Studies have been done connecting a diet with lentils has led to a reduction in diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular diseases because of its bioactive compounds.
Lentils and other legumes can be quite the controversy in the health world. Some believe lentils to be a nutritious food, while others completely disagree. What’s all the fuss about? Lentils, along with other legumes, along with a ton of health benefits also contain, anti-nutrients. What are anti-nutrients?
Anti-nutrients are a substance that can interfere with the absorption and digestion of other nutrients. What anti-nutrients can be found in lentils? Phytic acid – impairs the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. Lectins – resist digestion and can affect the cell lining the intestinal tract. Saponins – resist digestion and may affect the cells lining the gut.
Easy Protein Plant-Based Lentil Fritter Recipe: Vegetable Fritters
Tofu (8g of protein per 100g)
Tofu is often a staple in many vegan and vegetarian diets. For many is tasteless. Once you properly learn to prepare and cook it, it can taste fresh and enjoyable, which is a great news as it is the flagship plant based protein source for vegetarians.
Ranging in textures from soft to extra firm, you can create a multitude of dishes with its varying consistencies, from stir-fry to scrambles and everything in between. Tofu made from soy, is also a complete protein, meaning it gives you all essential amino acids your body requires.
Being a soy product there is controversy that swirls around tofu. Phytoestrogens are a hormone, and the phytoestrogen isoflavones in soy can mimic some effects of estrogen within your body. This has proven to beneficial to some, for example, women experiencing menopause symptoms. However, for women who may have had breast cancer or are being treated for it may want to consult their healthcare professional regarding their soy intake.
Easy Protein Plant-Based Spicy Korean Tofu Recipe: Spicy Korean Tofu
Vegan Protein Powder (protein per 100g dependent on brand)
If you’re not too picky about it being processed, protein powder is a great option for adding additional protein to meals. With the rise of plant-based eating, there are countless plant-based and vegan protein powders in health food and grocery stores.
There are countless vegan protein powders on the market today, ranging from; pea, hemp, soy, pumpkin seed, brown rice, sunflower seed and the list goes on. Plant-based protein powders typically have a more micronutrients than a non-plant-based powder. Plant-based protein powders are often more easily digested because it does not contain any lactose, which many people have digestive problems with.
Plant-based protein powders are still a processed food and many are being processed using hexane. Hexane is an explosive chemical neurotoxin that can damage your central nervous system. There is also controversy surrounding brown rice protein as brown rice has been known to be contaminated with arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic substance that is extremely dangerous to humans. When choosing a plant-based protein powder it is best to take some time and do your research.
Black Beans (21g of protein per 100g)
Black beans, also known as, black turtle beans, are consumed and enjoyed globally, especially in Latin America. You can usually find a can or two of black beans in any pantry or cupboard you look in as many have discovered, they are an easy addition of plant based protein sources to a meal.
First off, black beans, like many other beans and legumes are reasonably affordable, making them accessible to most of the population. Along with their affordability, black beans are packed with fiber and nutrients. The combination of protein and resistant starch in black beans will help you feel fuller longer.
While black beans are containing resistant starch and are ranked “low” on the glycemic index they are still a rather carb heavy plant-based protein with 70% of their calories coming from carbs. Many foods today, including black beans contain lectin and although lectin can cause symptoms of leaky gut and damage the digestive system, the body also uses them to accomplish bodily functions, such as, cell adherence and programmed cell death.
Easy Protein Plant-Based Black Bean Burger Recipe: Black Bean Burgers
Kidney Beans (8.7g protein per 100g *cooked*)
Kidney beans are a legume native to Central America and Mexico, that is now consumed globally. While, mainly a source of carbs and fiber, kidney beans are a good source of plant-based protein. Like other legumes, kidney beans contain a variety of bioactive plant compounds. These compounds have varying health impacts, both positive and negative on the body.
Kidney beans have a high micronutrient value and are rich in; molybdenum, folate, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin K1 and phosphorus. Kidney beans also contain a powerful antioxidant (anthocyanins), that is found in the skin of the kidney bean. The red coloring of the bean can mainly be contributed to this antioxidant. Kidney beans, like black beans rank “low” on the glycemic index level, meaning they can help to maintain a steady blood sugar level, thus making them diabetic friendly.
Phytic acid, a compound found in all edible seeds, debilitates the body’s absorption of the various minerals and nutrients mean the bioavailability has the potential to be low. However, it can be reduced by soaking, sprouting, fermenting and/or making sure the beans are fully cooked before consumption. Kidney beans also have high amounts of a lectin, known as, phytohemagglutinin (PHA). This is a toxic lectin that can be removed with proper cooking. According to State Food Safety, eating as little as 4 uncooked raw kidney beans is enough to cause symptoms of foodborne illness. Be sure to properly cook all your beans before consumption.
Tempeh (20g protein per 100g)
Tempeh, originally from Indonesia, is made a natural fermentation process, binding the soybeans into a cake-like form.
Tempeh is a complete protein on its own giving you all nine essential amino acids. Tempeh is also loved by many plant-based eaters, because like its soy friend tofu, it is a sponge to flavor. While tempeh also absorb flavor like protein, it is a lot heartier and has a more meat-like texture. Thus, making it an excellent choice as a meat replacement in your meal.
Tempeh is a soy product and soy allergies are among some of the most common allergens. Eating tempeh may trigger an allergic reaction to those who are allergic to soy. Like other soy products, tempeh contains phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are a hormone, and the phytoestrogen isoflavones in soy can mimic some effects of estrogen within your body. This has proven to be beneficial to some, for example, women experiencing menopause symptoms. However, for women who may have had breast-cancer or are being treated for it may want to consult their healthcare professional regarding their soy intake.
Easy Protein Plant-Based “BLT” Sandwich Recipe: Vegan BLT Sandwich
There are endless possibilities to make healthy sandwiches on vegan diet. You can make your own rich in vitamins and protein beetroot red quinoa paste ( blend both ingredients in your favorite proportions, with seasonal spices and a bit of olive oil. Adding avocado and cherry tomatoes will make the whole sandwich super healthy and delicious.
Ok, but how to make the queen of sandwiches, famous BLT sandwich, in a vegan version? No worries, it’s simple!
Use smoky tempeh as your ‘bacon’, add some crisp lettuce, tomato slices and veggie mayo.
Forget store-bought mayonnaise and make your own Vegan Mayo! How? It’s super simple:
You are going to need:
- 1 cup of whole Cashews,
- 1 tsp of Lemon juice and 1 tsp Vinegar (always used in 50:50 proportions to create the right mayonnaise taste),
- ½ tsp Nutritional Yeast,
- and a bit of Dijon Mustard.
Firstly, drain your soaked Cashews, and all the ingredients, with a bit of salt and blend it. You can store it in a glass container in a fridge up to 10 days.
Now you can add mayo to your BLT sandwich ingredients, all in a fresh yummy buns. Let’s get into it!
Does this article change the way you think about protein?
Sarah Williams is a busy full-time, lifestyle blogger and nutrition freak. She loves motivating people to reach their highest potential, eat clean, boost their energy and feel better in their own skin. You can connect with Sarah on Wingman Magazine.