Protein is power – but when you ditch the meat, dairy and anything animal-related, it can be a bit of challenge to get. If you’re vegan, or just want to munch on alternate forms of this satiating food group, then consider the five options below. But just remember, even though protein is absolutely necessary for muscle tissue, hair, skin and connective tissue, it’s as Dr. Kathy Isoldi, PhD and registered dietitian at Long Island University, says: The average American typically gets triple the amount of protein that they need, which is about 46 grams for women and 56 grams a day for men. In fact, consuming protein tends to help your body pack on more calories and fat rather than build more muscle mass — no thanks! Check out how much protein you need by going here.
1. hemp seeds
serving size: 30 g calories: 174 total fat: 14 g (trans: 0 g) carbohydrate: 2 g protein: 11 g
Not only is this pine nut-tasting seed a spectacular source of protein, but it contains all nine of the essential amino acids (very much like flax, as I mentioned in my last post!) in addition to the other 11 amino acids. Its fiber and fatty acids composition make this a nutritious protein source, but, unlike beans, it’s also very digestible (read: no gas or bloating). And get this: It’s available as milk, seeds (which is most popular today), and as protein powder!
Serving size: 1 cup (185 g) calories: 222 total fat: 3.6 g carbohydrate: 39.4 g protein: 8.1 g
Technically it’s a seed – but who cares? Quinoa is one of the few whole grains that are a complete protein! Quinoa’s iron and fiber content is yet another reason for vegetarians and vegans (and yes, omnivorous too!) to jump for joy. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber and 21 percent of fiber. Did we mention it’s also an excellent source of magnesium?
3. nut butter spreads
Vague terminology, but let me clarify: Peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter (no, this does not refer to Nutella) and sunflower seed butter. Particularly on the rise is almond butter, which boasts vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. This is only a little bit more than peanut butter can say, which is a good source of magnesium, folate and vitamins B3 and E. Both spreads are a great source of fiber and protein. Despite both butter’s nutritious content, the preservation process gives them a bad rep. Many manufacturers of peanut butter, for example, add excess salt, sugar and even saturated fats, if you can believe it. Look out for spreads with a two to three ingredient content list (i.e. just the nut and salt). And, if it was manufactured during a minimal heat process (excess heat strips away the spreads nutrition) then that’s even better.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, soybeans contain all of the essential amino acids. Better yet, diets high in soy protein and low in animal protein actually reflect lower incidences of prostate and breast cancers. Here’s the catch: Most of the health benefits of soy protein (lower levels of cholesterol, improvements of menopausal hot flashes, maintains bone density) occur when it’s consumed in whole form – which is a lot harder to obtain considering the most common forms of soy are processed (think: tofu, soy milk, tempeh). One word of caution before you run out to the grocery store and stock up on whole soy foods (meaning avoiding products that contains TVP, which are highly processed soy isolates): The active ingredients in soy are isoflavones, which are converted to phytoestrogens and act like the hormone estrogen. An excess of pure estrogen has been linked to an increase in certain cancers (breast cancer) but studies have not yet proven that eating too much soy has a direct effect on humans.
5. beans (and lentils)
Beans are good for your health and for your wallet! One serving of beans contains 12 to 15 grams per cooked cup, while lentils contain 18 grams. They’re also a fabulous source of fiber, which is something the American diet is lacking since the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board reports that they only consume 10 to 15 grams of the 25 to 38 recommended amount. For the most fibrous option, go for kidney beans, which contain7.9 grams per ½ cup cooked. If you’re worried about the sodium content in canned beans, which are easier to prepare than dried beans, then rinse and drain them to remove 40 percent of the sodium content, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight.