I like to think I'm a healthy eater. With my plant-based diet, I pay attention to protein, fiber and iron. I recently came across a Harvard Health article titled "How much protein do you need every day?" It had an easy-to-use protein calculator which determines your recommended protein amount based on factors like age, weight, and activity levels. I completed the calculator and found out that I needed to consume 38g of protein. I thought easy peasy! I tracked my protein intake for an average day and found that I only consume 37.3g! I thought for sure I would surpass this.
This got me thinking about how can I add more protein to my diet. Protein is an essential building block in our body. With insufficient amounts of protein, our bodies can get tired more easily and may not be repairing themselves properly. In this article, I'm going to explore the importance of protein in a plant-based diet, sources for protein, and even explore baking with protein. Let's get started!
The Importance of Protein in a Plant-Based Diet
Protein is essential for the human body, as it provides amino acids that help build and repair tissues in our body. These amino acids are necessary for maintaining muscle mass, and healthy bones, skin, and hair.
Plant-based diets often have a reputation for being low in protein, but that's not necessarily true. A well-planned plant-based diet can provide all the necessary protein that our body requires. Moreover, plant-based proteins are often rich in other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, that may not be present in animal-based protein sources.
Sources for Protein in a Plant-Based Diet
There are plenty of plant-based protein sources available that can help meet our daily protein needs. Here are some of the top protein sources in a plant-based diet:
- Legumes: Legumes, such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas, are rich in protein, fiber, iron, and other nutrients. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, salads, and even burgers. My absolute fave is chickpeas. I could eat them every day in so many different ways.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds, are excellent sources of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They can be used as a snack, added to smoothies, or used as a topping on oatmeal or yogurt. I always add a tablespoon of chia seeds to my overnight oats/ oatmeal. I also love adding pumpkin seeds to my salads (love that crunch!).
- Tofu and Tempeh: Tofu and tempeh are soy-based protein sources that are rich in protein, calcium, and iron. They can be used in stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, and even burgers. While I cannot eat tofu as my oncologist advised steering clear of soy (due to being high-risk for breast cancer), I love making this for my family. It's such an easy add to soups.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley, are rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. They can be used as a base for salads, soups, or as a side dish. Whole grains are the only grains in my house - from brown rice to oats to whole wheat pasta and bread.
Baking with Protein
Baking with protein can be a great way to add more protein to your diet. Here are some ideas for baking with protein:
- Protein Powder: Protein powder, such as whey protein or pea protein, can be added to baked goods, such as muffins, pancakes, or waffles, to increase their protein content. This is one of my favorite breakfast protein bowl recipes. Note, I created it when the last Olympics were on.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds can be added to baked goods, such as cookies or bread, to increase their protein content.
- Legume Flours: Legume flours, such as chickpea flour or lentil flour, can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in baked goods. They are high in protein and can add a nutty flavor to baked goods. This is my favorite Protein Bar Recipe with chickpeas.
- Tofu: Silken tofu can be used as a substitute for eggs in baked goods. It can be blended with other ingredients, such as sugar or vanilla extract, to create a smooth and creamy texture.
In conclusion, protein is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in our body. A well-planned plant-based diet can provide all the necessary protein that our body requires. Legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu and tempeh, and whole grains are some of the top protein sources in a plant-based diet. Baking with protein can be a great way to add more protein to your diet. What plant-based proteins will you be adding to your diet?