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In the U.S., plant-based eating has become more than just a fad. A growing number of people are taking notice of the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet.
Research has shown that eating more plant-based meals can help control diabetes, reduce the risk of heart disease, and even play an important role in cancer survivorship. But, there’s no question that animal products provide the majority of protein in the standard American diet. So, if you decided that eating more plants is right for you, where will you get your protein?
The good news is there’s a wide variety of plant-based foods that contain adequate amounts of protein. Plant protein sources are also filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – plus they’re naturally low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
Here are my top picks for proteins you should be eating if you’re incorporating more meatless meals into your lifestyle.
Lentils and beans are packed with protein! One cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and one cup of cooked beans contains about 15 grams. They are very versatile, too. Cook them up with your favorite spices and add them to salads, veggie burgers, homemade soups, and pasta sauce. Or go plant-based on taco night with these delicious black bean tacos.
Nuts are high in protein and healthy fats. A handful of raw nuts makes a great snack. You can also throw them into granola recipes or your morning oatmeal. Nut butters are a delicious addition to smoothies, apple slices, and whole grain toast. When shopping for nut butter, make sure to look for “all-natural” varieties. The nut, and maybe a hint of sea salt, should be the only items listed on the food ingredient label.
Edamame is another plant protein powerhouse. One cup of cooked edamame contains 17 grams of protein! Enjoy alone as a snack or eat the rainbow with this nutrient-packed chopped salad.
Believe it or not, whole grains contain protein too! You’ll find protein in commonly-used grains, like brown rice and oats. Or be adventurous by experimenting with ancient grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, kamut, and teff. These whole grains are so fantastic and filling, we can even have them for breakfast! How do some of these protein-packed grains stack up? One cup of cooked quinoa provides eight grams of protein and you’ll get nine grams of protein from a cup of cooked amaranth.
Chia, hemp, pumpkin, flax, sunflower… the list goes on. A variety of seeds can contain between five and nine grams of protein in one-quarter cup. Seeds can be added to a number of meals - including salads, cereals, or even dessert!
You can easily enjoy the variety, flavors, and health benefits of a plant-based diet without forfeiting protein.
For more information on healthy eating, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living blog. Individual nutrition counseling and group programs to help fulfill your health and wellness needs are available through the Lifestyle Medicine Center by calling 401-793-7817.
Katie Lester is a clinical dietitian at Lifespan’s Lifestyle Medicine Center. Katie is also a facilitator for several wellness programs offered through the center. She has special interests in women’s health, cancer survivorship, and plant-based nutrition.