5 Plant-Based Protein Sources You’ll Love

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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.

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Got plant protein?

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.

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Friends, not food.

In addition to being cruelty-free and more nutritious, many plant-based foods contain dietary fiber and provide an alkalizing effect on the body.

Animal-based foods, on the other hand, are void of fiber and contain inflammatory properties like lipopolysaccharides (LPS), LDL cholesterol and antibiotics.

Eating meat products essentially contributes to acidosis in the body, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence linking chronic inflammation with nearly every disease known to mankind.


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…

1. Soybeans

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1 cup of cooked soybeans = 17 grams of protein

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!

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Just winging it.

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Tempeh with leafy greens, yes please!

Whole soybeans also have iron, calcium and anti-cancer phytochemical compounds, so why does soy have such a bad rap?

For one, soy contains phytoestrogens and there’s a large misconception about how the estrogen-like compounds can affect the body.

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)

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1 cup of cooked chick peas = 15 grams of protein

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).

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Gently sautéed in some olive oil, garlic and broccoli.

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.

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Chana masala via @ed_gorria

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.

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Salad with beet hummus in a buckwheat cup

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!

For some hummus-making inspiration, check out this beet hummus and jalapeno-cilantro hummus recipe.

Hummus works great as a veggie dip, sandwich spread, salad mixer, etc. The only limit is your imagination!

3. Buckwheat groats (kasha)

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1 cup of cooked kasha = 6 grams of protein

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.

Like quinoa, buckwheat is a pseudocereal rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. And like chickpeas, it’s gluten-free and a source of folic acid.

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Kasha is a source of iron, magnesium and zinc.

“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.

I  like to cook kasha with 2 cups of water to 1 cup of roasted groats, adding sautéed shallots, mushrooms, turmeric, worcestershire sauce and soy sauce for flavor.

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.

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Soba noodles with tofu.

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!

There’s also buckwheat flour which is used to make Japanese soba noodles and all kinds of gluten-free breads and pancake mixes.

Buckwheat panakes ♡

Buckwheat pancakes may not be the sexiest looking pancakes around, but they’re gluten-free and pair nicely with blueberries, bananas & cinnamon, peanut butter or almond butter.

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.

The bottom line about buckwheat: while it’s not the highest source of plant protein compared to soybeans and chickpeas, kasha is a nutritious & energizing dish that will make you feel amazing and ready to hit the gym hard! It can be boiled, steamed, fried and served as an alternative to rice or potatoes.

4. Ezekiel Bread

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Avocado on Ezekiel sprouted whole grain toast = 5 grams of protein.

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.

ezekiel bread breakfastAnother impressive feature about Ezekiel bread: it contains no sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients!

It’s also a low glycemic food and therefore a great option for those on a diabetic or pre-diabetic diet.

According to Food For Life, this high-quality bread has a glycemic index equal to 36, compared to white bread at 70, and 100% whole grain at 62.

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.

 

5. Spirulina

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1 tbsp spirulina = 4 grams of protein

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.

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Smoothie breakfast bowl using spirulina.

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, phosphoruschlorophyll, 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.

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Green smoothie using Hawaiin Spirulina.

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.

Once harvested, this superfood is commercially available in tablet, capsule or powdered form.

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.

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Blue Ocean Bowl via Pearth Organic Kitchen using blue spirulina.

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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