Plant-based meals are growing in popularity as research suggests their positive impact on health and the environment. Plant-based proteins tend to be lower in calories and fat than animal proteins and higher in fiber and essential nutrients. By swapping plant proteins for animal proteins, you can often reduce your calorie intake and boost your overall nutrient intake.
Here are 5 of the best plant sources of protein to try.
1. Lentils: These small but mighty legumes provide about 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving. Lentils along with beans, peas, nuts, and seeds offer a full protein package. They are high in fiber (8 grams per serving), vitamins and phytonutrients (plant nutrients). A benefit of lentils is that they do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. Three varieties of lentils are most widely available: green, brown and red. Green lentils have a nutty flavor and maintain their shape when cooked. Brown lentils soften during cooking, and red lentils are the quickest to cook.
How to enjoy: Use lentils as a meat replacement in tacos or pasta sauce. Soups, stews and chili are ideal for lentils. Since green lentils stay firm when cooked, drizzle them with a little olive oil and lemon juice for a delicious side dish!
2. Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas contain about 7.5 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, these legumes are also a good source of folate, fiber and iron.
How to enjoy: Try roasting chickpeas for a crispy snack. Chickpeas are also the main ingredient in hummus.
3. Beans and peas (black beans, kidney beans, Great Northern beans, black-eye peas and so on): With more than 20 varieties, these nutritional powerhouses are rich in protein (7.5 grams per ½ cup serving), fiber, folate, magnesium, and iron. Look for low-sodium or no-sodium-added varieties when shopping for canned beans at the store. The recommended intake of beans is 1 ½ cups per week.
How to enjoy: Add beans to salads, stir-fries, soups and stews.
A few recipes to try:
Lemon Rosemary White Bean Dip – serve with crackers, vegetables or even as a sandwich spread.
Beans and Greens Soup – change up the type of beans or peas and greens used in this recipe (use black-eyed peas and collard greens for a Southern twist).
4. Quinoa: While technically a seed, quinoa resembles a whole grain. It is also a whole protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams fiber.
How to enjoy: Use in place of other grains like rice and pasta. Toss in a salad or even have it in the morning in milk as you would a breakfast cereal.
5. Nuts and nut butter: In addition to protein, nuts and nut butter are good sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. For calorie control, keep serving size to a small handful of nuts (about ¼ cup), which will provide about 5-6 grams of protein. 2 tablespoons of nut butter provides about 180 calories and 7 grams of protein.
How to enjoy: Sprinkle chopped nuts on a salad or on top of vegetables. Add a spoonful of nut butter to smoothies or spread on apple slices for an afternoon snack.
A few recipes to try:
Maple Walnut Buttermilk Smoothie – the tangy buttermilk (high in probiotics!) is the perfect complement to the sweetness from the banana
and maple syrup in this recipe.
Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats – packed with fiber and protein!
Almond Energy Bites – Three Ways – store in the refrigerator or freezer and pull out a few for a perfect little snack!
Almond Butter Oat Bars – An easy one bowl recipe! Substitute natural peanut butter for the almond butter if desired.
Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate. You can find additional blogs from Laura on Forge’s blog!