If you want to include more whole plant-based foods into your weekly meals then pretty early on you’ll likely want to look into what your protein options are.
Most of us have grown up being told that, in order to remain healthy, we need to consume protein from meat and animal products because that’s where protein comes from.
Happily, this is a complete myth. Protein can be found in almost all foods in varying amounts.
What is Protein?
Protein is made from chains of amino acid molecules and is found throughout our bodies. Theses amino acids form together to produce protein. There are many different kinds of amino acids and 22 of them are known to play an important role in our health.
There are 9 Essential amino acids that our bodies can’t manufacture and these need to come directly from the food we eat.
There are 13 Non Essential amino acids which our human bodies will happily make up on their own.
Have you ever wondered why protein is so important?
Protein is essential to our bodies structure, growth, repair and in order to function properly. It forms the structure of our cells and also acts as hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.
When we eat protein it also helps to keep us feeling satisfied for longer after meals.
What food contains protein?
One of the reasons we're taught that protein in meat and animal products is essential is because these foods contain all 9 of the essential amino acids called Complete Proteins.
While protein can be found in meat and animal products including eggs and dairy, it's also found in plant-based foods such as:
- Tofu and
How much protein should we be eating?
The most important thing, and we're always being told this by the powers that be, is to make sure that you're eating a variety of different foods every day. So by including plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy plant-based foods you’re more likely to be getting all the nutrients your body needs.
In the UK, the recommended amount of protein per day to eat averages out at around 55g for men and 45g for women. So if you’re eating 3 main meals per day that’s about 18.33g per meal for men and 15g per meal for women. The calculation to use is 0.75g per kilo of body weight.
Don't forget that all our needs are different depending on, for example, how much physical activity we do and our age etc. We're all individuals, after all. The thing is, to make sure we have enough for our bodies to work properly so that we can stay fit and well.
Beans, peas and lentils
Beans, peas and lentils are some of the most nutritious foods around containing plenty of protein, fibre, B vitamins, and minerals. They easily take on the flavours of other foods which makes them versatile in the kitchen. You can easily swap them for meat in dishes. They make perfect comfort food & are absolutely delicious, for example, in curries, soups, and salads.
When you're starting out with raw food it's tempting to try preparing meals using raw beans, peas and lentils straight away (after soaking and sprouting them first) but, I personally found it overwhelming doing it all at once. While you're experimenting with new recipes it's easier and quicker buying these in your local supermarket already cooked.
Of course, by all means, do get into soaking and sprouting and preparing from scratch if you want to but, we’re not necessarily going for perfection here.
Positive action, small steps.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are also high in protein but, they're high in fat too which we all need to be mindful of. These are great added to breakfasts, salads and desserts. They're so easy to just throw onto meals at the last minute such as:
- Try pecans and blueberries with a pinch of cinnamon on overnight oats
- Porridge with walnuts, cherries, and honey
- A typical pine nut and basil pesto over garlic mushrooms
- Cauliflower rice with almonds, pomegranate seeds, lemon and fresh herbs.
You see how easy it is? Nuts and seeds team up great with greens too like kale, watercress or spinach.
Fruit and Vegetables
Yes, that’s right there are even proteins in our fruit and vegetables. Although they’re not as high in protein as other foods they all still count. Some of the higher protein containing veggies are peas, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale and sweetcorn.
I’m going to also give sprouted seeds and microgreens a mention as I feel that these are really under utilised in our diets and they're SO easy to prepare.
Some fruits that are higher in protein include avocados, guava, apricots, raisins, and blackberries.
Gluten Free Grains
I like to include some whole gluten free grains / pseudo grains in my meals when I feel like it and most of the time I’ll cook these because it makes meals so much simpler.
Pseudo grains are technically seeds but still packed full of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals and they contribute to a healthy balanced diet which is, at the end of the day, what most of us want in order for our bodies to give us what we need to stay healthy.
GLuten free grains can be added to most meals including breakfast. Take a look at Amaranth, teff, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum and millet.
If it’s easy, makes you feel great and it works for you then do it. Every small change will add up along the way to a healthier more energetic you.
Anyhow, don’t you think it’s fun trying out new foods and delicious new flavour combinations?
Get creating something fabulous and new!