Give your meals a round house protein punch… the vegan way!
Derived from Mother Nature’s bounty, legumes, nuts, seeds and ancient grains are some of the main ingredients to satisfy a vegetarian palate and assist in achieving the daily protein requirements in a meat-free, strength-building meal.
While most plant protein sources do not contain all the essential amino acids that make up a complete protein as those found in animal sources, consuming an assortment of plant foods throughout the day will deliver the correct proportion of these fundamental amino acids – the “building blocks” of protein.
Legumes, a.k.a. soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, splitpeas, kidney and lima beans are some primary protein sources in a vegan diet. Soybeans, for example, are a powerhouse in and of itself, as they are the only legume that provides a complete protein profile. Consumed whole or in soy based products such as tofu or tempeh, they’re low in fat and cholesterol-free, making it effective for weight loss and inhibiting cancer developments. They also provide a source of calcium which may aid in preventing osteoporosis, and isoflavones to help reduce post-menopausal symptoms. Additionally, beans, lentils and chickpeas offer a versatile addition for a hearty meal. With a wholesome amount of protein, high fiber, low in fat and glycemic index, legumes may assist with digestion, weight management, as well as lowering glucose and cholesterol in the blood.
NUTS & SEEDS
A little crunch can go a long way when adding nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews to pump up your oh-so boring meals or munch as a snack. Rich in flavour, they provide a source of protein and vitamins such as A, C and E. A heart healthy source of Omega 3 fatty acids, nuts help blood vessels function properly by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
Likewise, seeds such as chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds, obtain many of the same heart healthy properties. They are nutritious little gold mines as they’re considered a superior plant source for iron and zinc. High in protein, seeds such as hemp are packed with an impressive 10g (3 tablespoons), while the nutritional crunch of pumpkin seeds delivers 9g (2 tablespoons).
For the carb lover in all of us, ancient grains add a hearty and unique addition to spice up a plant based menu. The flavourful taste of grains such as spelt, quinoa and amaranth, contain high levels of protein with cooked spelt having 11g (1 cup) and amaranth 9g (1 cup). A substantial amount of fiber, in addition to vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc and B vitamins, these grains are easily digestible and may lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Plant-based foods provide an array of essential nutrients, delightful textures and powerhouse macronutrient, protein. With a mouth-watering selection of wholesome, nutrient-dense foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and high in protein, the plant kingdom offers a culinary medley to achieve a strong mind, healthy body and knock out feast.
Recipe Inspiration: Try these protein packed peanut butter balls! Easy to make!
Author: Danilea DeFeo is a contributing writer to Optimyz for our print and website editions. She’s a vegan and recognized nutritionist. Follow Daniela on Twitter at @deevitareflect and on Instagram at @deevitareflections