Plant Based Protein Sources for a Healthy Diet
Top 5 Plant Based Foods For Complete Protein
Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which the body can’t produce on its own. Most animal foods, such as meat, fish, dairy products and eggs, are complete proteins.
But plant foods also offer complete protein options, including quinoa and soy. A few of these, in addition to protein-rich leafy greens and nuts, can help you meet your daily protein needs.
Amaranth is a gluten-free pseudocereal that belongs to the same category as quinoa, millet and farro. It has a mild flavor and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Whole amaranth seeds and amaranth flour are available at many grocery stores, including the health-food section.
Amaranth contains a lot of soluble fiber, which helps your digestive system work more efficiently. This type of fiber combines with water to form a gluey mass that traps fats, sugars and bacteria. This prevents leaky gut syndrome, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and pain in the gut.
Another great advantage of amaranth is its bioactive peptides, which have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that amaranth is good for reducing inflammation in the body and may help protect against heart disease.
Buckwheat is a pseudocereal (not technically a grain) that’s gluten-free, making it an option for those with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities. It also offers a good source of complete protein.
Buckwheat contains all the essential amino acids, including lysine. It also has a low glycemic index, which means it can help you manage your blood sugar levels and maintain energy throughout the day.
Buckwheat is also rich in minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous and copper. It’s high in fiber, too, which can promote healthy digestion and boost your bowel function. Additionally, it’s rich in rutin and quercetin phenolic compounds, which can promote cardiovascular health. It’s best eaten sprouted, since this makes its nutrients more biologically available for the body to absorb.
Whether they’re savoury and roasted, or still in their stringy guts from that jack-o-lantern you just carved, pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) pack an incredible nutritional punch. They are a good source of protein, dietary fibre, iron, potassium and zinc. They also provide a significant amount of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which gets converted to DHA and EPA in our bodies to help fight heart disease, inflammation and artery hardening.
Sprinkle on oatmeal or overnight oats, add to salads and yogurt, or even use as a granola topping. You can also try pumpkin seed protein powder, which is great in smoothies, energy balls and baked goods. It is a vegan alternative to other popular protein powders such as whey and soy.
Hemp seeds (Cannabis sativa) have the same botanical relationship to medicinal varieties of marijuana, but they don’t contain psychoactive compounds (aka, you won’t get high). They are packed with omega-3 and omega-6 healthy fats. Add them to your morning oats, smoothie or sprinkle over salad and avocado toast.
Hemp seed proteins have a high level of the amino acid arginine, which turns into nitric oxide and improves blood flow and cardiovascular health. They also have a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, which helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Hemp seeds are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promotes regularity and a healthy gut. However, they are not recommended if you take heart medications because they can interfere with cardiac glycosides and increase the risk of bradycardia.
Tofu and tempeh
Both tofu and tempeh are soy based proteins that offer complete protein and a host of health benefits. Registered dietitians recommend including both in your diet daily as they are versatile meat alternatives.
Tofu offers a soft texture that easily absorbs flavors and can be marinated and grilled. It is low in calories and fat and a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, and magnesium. It also provides phytoestrogens that protect against prostate and colon cancer and help reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
Tempeh is a dense, cake-like helping of fermented soybeans that’s often made with grains and spices. It can be fried, grilled, or crumbled over salads and stir fries. It is rich in vitamins B6, E, and K, thiamine, and niacin.