Whether you’re exploring veganism, a carnivore or just plain curious about plant-based protein options, the bottom line is this: getting more of your protein from plant-based sources is more beneficial to your health.
Many people associate animal-based foods as the primary source of complete protein, but did you know plant-based foods like legumes, grains and vegetables are a more practical way to get all the amino acids your body needs on a daily basis?
Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to build an athletic physique on a plant-based diet.
Animal-based foods, on the other hand, are void of fiber and contain inflammatory properties like lipopolysaccharides (LPS), LDL cholesterol and antibiotics.
It’s in your best interest to eat a variety of plant-based foods each day to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. Luckily there are a handful of delicious, meatless ways to help you meet your dietary needs…
Soybeans originate from East Asia and are widely grown throughout the U.S. for commercial use in unfermented soy products like tofu, edamame and soy milk , as well as fermented products like tempeh, miso and tamari.
As a plant-based source of complete protein, soy-based foods are used as a meat substitute in many meat-tasting vegan products, including Native Food Cafe‘s Chicken Strips, which are non GMO and to die for!
Whole soybeans also have iron, calcium and anti-cancer phytochemical compounds, so why does soy have such a bad rap?
Despite what you may have heard, phytoestrogens won’t cause men to grow man-boobs, nor do they increase the risk of breast cancer or thyroid dysfunction in women.
In fact, these naturally occurring plant hormones can actually bring benefits to the body and lower the risk of breast cancer, as Dr. Berg points out in the video below:
Not all soy-based products are created equally, however. There’s of course soy in its traditional forms which have been a part of the Asian diet for centuries, and then there’s genetically modified soy.
According to the USDA, 94% of soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, so choose your soy-based foods wisely. Like with any other plant-based food, you’ll want to make sure it’s non GMO and certified organic.
And to reap the most health benefits, go for whole soy products like edamame and/or minimally processed tofu to reap all the nutritional value soybeans have to offer.
2. Garbonzo beans (chick peas)
The beloved chickpea originates from the Middle East and is found in a variety of healthy diets, including gluten-free and Mediterranean.
Just 1 cup of cooked chickpeas gives you 15 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fiber; that’s half of the Daily Value (DV) for dietary fiber in a serving!
Beyond containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, chickpeas are loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals including manganese (supports healthy bones, thyroid and cognitive functions) and folate (improves fertility in men & women, promotes liver health and anti-aging).
A recent study revealed that a deficiency in folate during pregnancy can be attributed to an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research also shows this B vitamin can lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, so for optimal health consider making chickpeas an integral part of your diet year-round.
You can easily find them sold in the canned or dried bean section of your local supermarket. Dried chickpeas should be placed in a bowl and soaked overnight in cold water before cooking; canned chickpeas come precooked and just need to be rinsed.
I love the slightly nutty taste and cooked potato-like texture of chickpeas, so I don’t mind eating them whole and drizzled in olive oil or soybean oil.
They also go great in salads and in a variety of amazing ethnic dishes including my all-time fave Indian dish, chana masala. And then we have the classic Middle Eastern dip, hummus.
Hummus is definitely a must-have item in the fridge at all times, and luckily it’s super quick and easy to make at home, too!
All you need is 1 can of chick peas, some garlic cloves, 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a food processor to mix it all up!
Hummus works great as a veggie dip, sandwich spread, salad mixer, etc. The only limit is your imagination!
3. Buckwheat groats (kasha)
Buckwheat isn’t a wheat or grain; it’s actually the grain-like seed of a Herbaceous plant that’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
“Kasha” refers to roasted buckwheat groats that are cooked in water or milk. Fit for any diet, a 1-cup serving provides about 20 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Tip: Make sure you pre-soak the groats before cooking, and be careful not to overcook it; you want it to be slightly ‘al dente’ and not mushy.
Studies reveal this feel-good-food can help you lose weight, prevent disease and manage symptoms of Type II diabetes.
It’s no wonder the Russians regard kasha as one of their soul foods!
As an acquired taste, you may grow to love its earthy flavor and light & airy texture. Check out this Blueberry Buckwheat Pancake recipe for some gluten-free pancake inspiration.
4. Ezekiel Bread
As a sprouted whole grain loaf, Ezekiel bread provides more protein and dietary fiber then any other bread you’ll find at the supermarket.
It’s exclusively made with 6 organic whole grains & legumes including sprouted soybeans, lentils, barley and spelt.
Just one piece of toast provides 4.8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
Another impressive feature about Ezekiel bread: it contains no sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients!
While it may be a flourless bread, it’s not to say Ezekiel bread is gluten-free. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent plant-based protein option with fiber and 18 amino acids, including 9 of the essentials.
Spirulina is a protein-rich cyanobacteria that grows naturally in tropical and sub-tropical alkaline lakes.
As one of Earth’s oldest living organisms and most nutrient-dense foods, spirulina has long been used for its amazing health benefits.
With a net protein utilization rate of 50-61%, spirulina is comparable to eggs when it comes to the amount of protein found per gram, although 2 grams (1 teaspoon) per day is considered a relatively standard dose.
Besides the fact that it has all 9 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids, spirulina also contains high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, phosphorus, chlorophyll, phycocyanin, iron and calcium, just to name a few!
Needless to say, this “blue-green algae” can help you maintain a healthy immune system while providing exceptional support to the liver, kidneys and heart.
Spirulina also helps to improve the body’s digestive system and apparently can work as an appetite suppressor, so this is a must-have in the diet if you’re trying to lose weight or want to maintain a slim & healthy physique.
You’ll literally feel a near instantaneous boost to your energy after consuming spirulina, which contains age-defying antioxidants, detoxifies the body and oxygenates the blood.
I enjoy it in powdered form from Nutrex Hawaii, the makers of Hawaiin Spirulina. It goes great in smoothies, and I always feel like a million bucks after consuming it.
To date, there are over 2,596 peer-reviewed scientific articles evaluating the health benefits of spirulina, and evidence shows this superfood can help to restore and revitalize your health.
It’s a natural detoxifier that will help cleanse your body of toxins and impurities, reduce inflammation, and improve your endurance.
Try it in lieu of coffee first thing in the morning, and let me know how you feel. The health benefits of taking spirulina on a daily basis can be profound!
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