One of the most common questions about consuming plant-based foods is “How do I get my protein?!” Luckily, with a little bit of thought, creating a balanced plant-based diet and lifestyle with adequate protein is easy! Even better, many plant-based proteins actually carry a variety of benefits aside from their protein content, such as being high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. So not only will you get enough of a vital nutrient but you will get a whole host of other useful micronutrients.
Getting enough plant-based protein
Adding more plant-based protein into your daily routine is much simpler than many people think. There are a variety of plant-based foods that are high in protein including legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds (as well as nut and seed butters), and certain grains. So, if you incorporate a range of these foods in your diet you will find that it’s easy, and satisfying, to get adequate protein every day.
In general, the protein recommendations for the general public is in the range of 0.8-1.0 g of protein per kilogram of their body weight. As an example, an individual who weighs 68 kilograms, or 150 pounds, should aim for 54.5-68.2 grams of protein per day.
*Older adults, young children, and active individuals may need more protein. Please consult a Registered Dietitian for individualized recommendations.
Getting good quality plant-based protein
“Complete” proteins are those that do contain all nine essential amino acids. Plant-based sources of complete protein include soy foods such as edamame, soy beans, tofu and tempeh, hemp hearts, chia seeds and quinoa.
A common myth of plant-based proteins is that they do not contain all nine essential amino acids. These nine essential amino acids are, well, essential for our bodies to function properly! Our bodies do not make enough of them on its own, therefore we have to get them from food.
There are two essential amino acids, lysine and methionine, that may be a concern for individuals following a primarily plant-based diet. With that said, ensuring variety in your plant based proteins often is all you need to ensure that even these two tricker amino acids are consumed in large enough quantities. As some examples, lysine can be found in high doses in legumes, while cereals, such as brown rice, oats, and grains, are typically high in methionine.
Another common myth is that we need to have all of the essential amino acids in every meal in order for optimal body functions. This however is not actually true as we now know that humans are able to store “pools” of amino acids, meaning that consuming all nine essential amino acids at every meal is not necessary. So, in other words, if your daily diet is well balanced and contains a variety of foods with these amino acids, getting enough protein overall, in addition sufficient quantities of each amino acid, should not be an issue.
Plant-based protein sources:
|Firm tofu (1/2 cup):||20g|
|Black beans (1/2 cup):||8g|
|Chickpeas (1/2 cup):||7g|
|Lentils (1/2 cup):||9g|
|Chia seeds (1/4 cup):||6g|
|Almonds (1/4 cup):||7g|
|Hemp seeds (3 tbsp):||10g|
|Peanut butter (1 tbsp):||4g|
|Pumpkin seeds (2 tbsp):||5g|
|Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup):||6g|
|Edamame (1/2 cup):||10g|
|Tempeh (1/2 cup):||16g|
|Soymilk (1 cup):||6-11g|
|Tahini (2 tbsp):||5g|
To help you get started, here are some easy ways to incorporate more plant-based protein
- Try adding a tablespoon of nut butter to smoothies
- Try adding cooked lentils to pasta sauces
- Snack on hummus for a high protein, high fiber snack!
- Try adding tofu to stir fries with a variety of vegetables and brown rice
- Snack on boiled soybeans with a sprinkle of garlic powder and black pepper
- Pack a few tablespoons of nuts or seeds for a quick, on the go snack!
- Sprinkle flax, hemp or chia seeds onto salads, smoothies or stir fries
- Add chickpeas or black beans to soup
- Add soy milk to a smoothie instead of water
- Drizzle tahini on salads
What is your favorite way to add plant-based protein to a meal? Let us know in the comments below!
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