Eating a primarily plant based diet has an infinite list of benefits. We’ve all been told from a young age to ‘eat our greens’ and vegetables are top of the list when it comes to food groups that parents try to make their children eat.
That being said, if you follow a primarily plant based diet, although you may feel like a pinnacle of health, there’s definitely one thing you’ll have struggled with at some point, protein. It’s the bane of a vegetarian/vegan’s life, especially one that leads an active lifestyle. Most high protein sources come from animal based products and therefore trying to muster up a high protein diet from plants is, let’s face it, a tough one.
But, it’s not impossible. In-fact, many athletes have opted to switch to a plant based diet and have proven that it is possible to lead a balanced, high protein diet.
What is protein?
Let’s clear things up first, you probably need to know exactly what protein is before we go on talking about the different sources of it.
Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates. These are the nutrients the body needs in large amounts in-order to function properly and keep all of the systems intact. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are mainly used to build muscle mass, help hair and nails grow, and help to regulate some hormones.
As you can see, protein is pretty important. But let’s get down to what exactly it does.
Why do we need it?
Now you can see that protein is essential, but let’s dig a little deeper into its benefits. First thing first, one of the main things that protein does is help to repair and build muscle. Therefore, if you are doing a lot of exercise and looking to build muscle, you’ve got to get your protein in. Otherwise those muscles of yours will not grow as much as they could.
On top of this, protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so if you’re looking for a way to feel full, make sure you’ve got protein packed meals. This can also come in handy if you’re opting for a healthier lifestyle and trying to lose weight.
In terms of what’s going on on the inside, protein helps to produce hormones and makes up enzymes that aid chemical reactions in the body. Regardless of whether you are active or not, you need a sufficient amount of protein for your body to work well.
Hungry for inspiration?
Plant based proteins
So, you’ve probably gathered that the majority of the protein you often eat comes from animal products such as meat and dairy, which can be a problem for those that choose a more plant based diet. That being said, there are certainly still ways that you can get a healthy amount of protein through plant based meals. It may take a little more planning and consideration, but it can be done.
Lentils – 9g per 100g
Lentils are often found cooped up in a jar somewhere in the kitchen and left because many people don’t really know what to do with them, but they are an essential if you are looking to get more plant based protein in your diet.
Not only do they provide a good source of protein, they are also rich with iron and potassium. Lentils are best served in stews, soups and curries.
Broccoli – 4g per stalk
As well as being a good source of plant based protein, broccoli also contains calcium, folic acid and vitamins A,C,E,K,. No wonder it was a staple on my plate as a child. This means 4 stalks of broccoli will fill you with 16g of fibrous protein.
Edamame beans – 11g per 100g
These are a source of soy protein, vitamin K and antioxidants. Not sure how to cook them? Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a pan and throw the beans in, dash the salt and pepper on top and fry for a few minutes. Now you’ve got the perfect high protein afternoon snack.
Plant based protein powder
Often the main protein powder on the shelves is whey protein, but finally plant based protein powders are having their time to shine. There are several options out there for you to trial and test until you find one that tickles your fancy. The main protein sources are:
- Brown rice
See it isn’t so bad when you really look into it. Vegetables are quite literally jam packed full of so many nutrients, including protein which is why it’s so important to get as many into your diet as possible. Choosing a primarily plant based diet does leave you lacking in some areas, but with prior planning and the information above, you can get cracking with the high protein vegetable dishes of your choice.