If you need to add more protein to your diet, but are not willing to put more trans-fat, cholesterol, and hormone-injected meat on your table, plant-based protein sources will pick up the slack.
According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, a focus on plant-based protein instead of animal products significantly reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Some other benefits your plant friends will grant include “promotion of healthy body weight, increase in fiber and phytonutrients, food-microbiome interactions, and decreases in saturated fat, advanced glycation endproducts, nitrosamines, and heme iron.”
Come on now—get your muscle-building, cell-repairing essential amino acids from these noble shrubs.
#1: “Super” Spirulina
The sheer amount of nutrition packed into this plant will knock your socks off. This blue-green algae is the most talked about superfood, and once you understand why, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been using it until now.
Spirulina is up to 70% protein, and is considered a “perfect protein,” meaning, it contains all eight essential amino acids, plus ten non-essential amino acids. This makes it an ideal supplement for vegetarians, or people who want to up their protein intake without all the extra calories.
This emerald green plant contains over 65 vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, including a mean antioxidant profile, helping your body fight off free-radical damage.
Spirulina can help you by detoxing your body; lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels; managing viruses; assisting in weight loss; preventing inflammation and pain; boosting your immunity; improving brain function; increasing strength and endurance; and controlling allergies.
All that, and it’s a complete protein? Time to get some spirulina.
Chlorella, spirulina’s cousin, is another “perfect protein” that contains all essential amino acids and 9 non-essential amino acids. Three tablespoons of this green stuff provides 16g of protein.
Chlorella’s bright green color comes from its high concentration of chlorophyll, a plant pigment, which provides anti-cancer, liver detoxification, improved digestion, and cellular repairing benefits.
In addition to the protein, chlorella provides an incredible amount of vitamins A and B, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
No wonder chlorella is among the top 10 health foods in the world!
This nutritious legume flies under the radar, and is easily lost among the bags in the grain isle of your local supermarket.
Lentils are 27% protein. 1 cup will give you 18g, which is 36% of your daily recommended protein intake, making them a perfect food for vegetarians—or anyone.
They have an astounding and varied nutritious profile rich in protein, fiber, and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Lentils are easy to prepare and extremely versatile, taking on the flavor of the herbs and spices you choose to add to them.
Quinoa is not a dietary supplement that you’ll only find in a health-food store. It’s not consumed in tablet or powder form, and it doesn’t go in your pill-box. It’s a main dish.
Due to its appearance, this nutritious seed is often mistaken for a grain. But there’s nothing grainy about it.
This gluten-free, protein-rich superfood is high in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and antioxidants. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8g of protein.
This versatile food can be used as the base for a main dish, or served as a side dish in lieu of rice. It’s available in flour form to use instead of wheat, and can be baked into your favorite muffin or cake.
Quinoa almost makes it TOO easy to eat healthily. You’ll find yourself wondering what the catch is (hint: there is no catch).
#5: Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds pack a lot of nutrients for such a small food. Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds contain 6g of protein, 18% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, and a whole lot of minerals, including phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper. They are, in fact, one of the best natural sources of magnesium.
These seeds are also high in antioxidants. They have been linked to improved heart, prostate, and bladder health, and may even reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack, or they can be added to salads or yogurt for a nutty crunch.
#6: Chia Seeds
Chia seeds were historically consumed by the Aztecs and Mayans for their energizing properties. They were even named for their powerful benefits; chia means “strength” in the Mayan language.
This South American seed is one of the best plant-based protein sources. It comes from the plant Salvia Hispanica, contains a LOT of nutrients including 4g of protein per ounce, which is about 2 tablespoons. In weight, they are 14% protein.
Chia seeds also contain a good amount of B-vitamins, calcium, fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Not to mention antioxidants.
Chia can easily be added to yogurt or oatmeal, or made into chia seed pudding, which has quickly become a popular breakfast recipe.
#7: “Mighty” Maca Root
Maca is a root from the cruciferous family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Maca root is most often consumed in powder form—so you can just add it to your smoothie.
Maca is famous for energy-boosting and depression-blasting properties. It is known to increase energy, stamina, and endurance.
Maca root powder is approximately 18% protein. It has 20 amino acids, including all the essential amino acids. Once ounce of maca root powder will give you 4g of protein, and a whole lot of iron, potassium, copper, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C.
This is one supplement you don’t want to miss out on.
A Final Word from Energetic Lifestyle
For a heart-healthy diet, and a stronger you, incorporate more plant-based protein sources, and practice meatless Mondays. You’ll be surprised at the lasting effects on your mood, your digestive system, and your energy levels.