There are many reasons why people are beginning to cut down on meats, dairy and eggs in their diets. One of these reasons is for health: a plant-based diet can help someone lose weight, lower their cholesterol levels and even decrease their risk of developing certain forms of cancer. Others cut down on or eliminate meat from their diet because of animal welfare or other environmental concerns.
One big challenge to going vegetarian or even reducing meat and dairy intake is still maintaining a healthy level of protein in the diet. Fortunately, there are many plant-based sources of protein – and some of them might come a surprise! Read on to find out more about the best plant-based sources of healthy protein.
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark leafy green vegetables including spinach and kale are not only rich in vitamins, iron, antioxidants and other nutrients: they provide protein as well. Kale in particular has the added benefit of anti-inflammatory properties and chlorella actually contains more protein than an equivalent serving of meat.
In order to bulk up a smoothie, salad or other dish with protein, simple add a handful of hemp seeds to the mix. They are unobtrusive in food, add a good deal of plant-based protein and also provide the body with essential amino acids and dietary fiber.
Tomatoes are a surprisingly good source of protein and are versatile vegetables, since it is easy to add them to soups, pasta or other Italian dishes, salads and casseroles. Along with the protein, they also offer dietary fiber and lycopene, an antioxidant with powerful anti-cancer properties. And they are as delicious as they are healthy!
One of the richest plant-based protein sources are legumes, a group which includes beans, lentils and peas and which are extremely popular as a meat substitute due to their texture and their versatility in cooking. They also provide a high amount of fiber, amino acids, calcium and iron. They can be made into bean burgers, vegetarian pies, or into a plant-based “bean loaf” that resembles an old-fashioned meat loaf.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts like almonds and cashews and seeds like pumpkin or sunflower seeds are also rich sources of protein and can be enjoyed as nut-based milks, butters and cheeses or added to pasta or rice dishes, salads and casseroles. They also provide Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce risks of heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Thus, someone who is planning on following a vegetarian diet or at least cutting down on meat and dairy has a lot of options open to them. These are just a few of the many, many plants out there that can provide the healthy protein the body needs without getting it from an animal-based source.
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