Although the meat
and dairy industries like to make it sound like animal protein is the prize
protein for your body, science doesn’t back up this claim.
out that the source of your protein matters and that animal
protein may actually be significantly inferior.
In a 2018
study published in the International Journal of
Epidemiology, researchers followed 81,337 participants for six to 12 years.
The researchers looked at the percentage of protein that came from animal and
plant sources for these participants. What they found was that the risk
of cardiovascular deaths steadily climbed with higher consumption of meat
protein — but fell steadily with increased consumption of protein
from nuts and
In addition, a 2003
research review published in The
American Journal of Clinical Nutritionconfirmed that diets lower in
meat consumption lead to greater longevity.
The researchers also
noted that the longer a person’s adherence to a plant-strong diet, the
lower their risk of mortality and the higher their life expectancy.
At least one of the
reasons may be the protein IGF-1. Research suggests that animal protein, in particular, causes
higher levels of IGF-1, which may increase your risk of cancer and many
Does Protein Make You Lean and Strong?
The right amount of
protein will help you be healthy, but what about the claims that extra protein
intake allows you to release extra weight and is needed to build muscle?
In fact, the
only way to build muscle is through exercise. Your body needs enough
protein to function, and weightlifters and power athletes may need more than
everyone else. But consuming excess protein by itself won’t give you strength.
For weight loss,
it’s true that protein can help reduce hunger, boost metabolism, and reduce
cravings. But too much protein has too many health downsides to be a desirable
weight loss strategy.
14 Delicious, Plant-Based Protein Foods
There is a
widespread belief that only animal foods provide sufficient complete protein.
But the reality is, many plant-based protein food sources contain abundant and
complete protein. For example, the percentage of calories coming from
protein in tempeh, tofu, or green lentils is actually higher than in bacon or
in cow’s milk.
If you want to get
plenty of plant-based protein, here are some potent sources:
1) Organic Tempeh — (1/2 cup): 16 grams of plant-based
This fermented soy
food has loads of protein. Try it as a substitute for bacon on a BLT, chopped
up on a tasty salad, or in a stir-fry with some colorful veggies. Tempeh also
makes a great addition to chili.
2) Lentils — (1 cup, cooked): 18 grams of plant-based protein
Lentils are a
delicious addition to many meals, and at an average of $2.00 per pound, they’re
Try red, green,
brown, yellow, or black lentils — and add them to a Buddha bowl, make lentil
soup, or incorporate them into burritos or tacos.
3) Organic Edamame — (1 cup, cooked): 17 grams of
This Asian staple is
soy in its most natural state. And it can be quite addictive (in a good way!).
Eat edamame out of
the shell, wrapped up in summer rolls, or as a regular in your salad rotation.
4) Chickpeas — (1 cup, cooked): 16 grams of plant-based
Also known as
garbanzo beans, chickpeas are highly satiating. They’re also the main
ingredient in one of my favorite spreads: hummus.
Try making your own
hummus. Or add chickpeas to salads, bowls, or roast them for a crispy,
5) Black Beans — (1 cup, cooked): 12 grams of plant-based
Chow down on these
protein-rich beans any time of the day.
Combine them with
whole grains for a protein-packed combo, turn them into a spread, or whip them
up into a nourishing soup.
6) Hemp Seeds — (3 Tablespoons): 10 grams of plant-based
These tiny little
seeds pack a powerful dietary punch; they’re rich in protein as well as omega-3
Small but mighty,
they make a great addition to smoothies, bowls, or sprinkled on salads. Instead
of adding protein powder to your smoothies, add a scoop of hemp seeds.
7) Quinoa — (1 cup, cooked): 9 grams of plant-based
popular seed is on menus everywhere these days. (Yes, it’s technically a
seed — not a grain, though it cooks and tastes like a grain.)
Try quinoa instead
of rice in plant-based sushi with this
recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen, use it as a base for bowls, or even make
8) Organic Extra-Firm Tofu — (3 oz): 9 grams of
If you’re not a fan
of tofu — you probably just haven’t found your favorite way to eat it. The
possibilities are almost endless with this ancient staple.
Try the extra-firm
variety in stir-fries, marinate it in your favorite sauce, bake it, or plop it
in a soup.
9) Almonds — raw (1/4 cup): 8 grams of plant-based
A perfect on-the-go
snack, almonds are high in healthy fats and other good-for-you ingredients,
including fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B2.
Eat almonds on their
own or smother almond butter on sandwiches or apples. You can also chop them up
and add them as a crunchy addition to your favorite dish.
10) Sunflower Seeds — (1/4 cup, raw): 7 grams of
These little seeds
Try them on their
own, sprinkled on salads or zoodle dishes, or even made into a Sunflower Seed
Butter via this
recipe from Minimalist Baker.
11) Oatmeal — (1 cup, cooked): 6 grams of plant-based
Not just for
breakfast anymore, oatmeal can be included in so many recipes (they even make milkwith it now!).
Make some overnight
oats with this recipe from Cookie and Kate, try this Savory Oatmeal from Forks Over Knives, throw some into
your smoothie, or make oat
12) Broccoli — (1 cup, cooked): 6 grams of plant-based
Broccoli is a
healthy cruciferous vegetable — and also a surprisingly good source of protein.
Add it to salads,
make it into soup, saute it, or add it to quinoa for a protein-packed
13) Chia Seeds — (2 Tablespoons): 6 grams of plant-based
familiar? For many folks, their only experience with chia seeds growing up may
have been via the infamous Chia Pets. But these teeny little seeds are now
becoming an increasingly popular superfood because of their high protein,
fiber, and omega-3 fatty acid content.
Make a chia seed
pudding, use chia seeds in smoothies, or add them to salads and oatmeal. And
here’s an important tip: Like flaxseed,
it’s best to grind your chia seeds to get the most nutrients possible.
14) Pumpkin Seeds — (1 oz, cooked): 4 grams of
For many people,
roasting fresh pumpkin seeds from a jack-o’-lantern is a fun (and delicious)
fall activity. But even if it’s off-season, you can buy these hearty seeds
(also known as “pepitas”) almost anywhere.
Eat them as a snack
when you travel or throw them on top of salads and bowls. You can also whip
pumpkin seeds into hummus.
Empower Your Protein Intake!
Protein is essential
for your body. But if you want to stay well and avoid disease, it’s best to
source most of your protein from plants. Luckily, the plant kingdom doesn’t
make that hard to do. You can get the protein you need from a variety of
garden-grown goodness every day.