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9 Plant-Based Proteins That Can Replace Meat in Your Diet

Bowl of mixed plant-based foods and pita (1)

Canada has updated its food guide for the first time since 2007. Now, we’re looking at a plate instead of a rainbow, and “dairy” and “meat & alternatives” have been combined into “protein foods.” Fruit juice is also out-of-sight and has been replaced with the recommendation that we choose water with our meals.

According to the new guide, Canadians should split their plate like this:

  • half for fruits and vegetables
  • quarter for whole grains
  • quarter for protein foods

Simple, healthy, and sensible. I love it.

I’m hoping these changes will help Canadians see the true complexity of protein and realize that meat is not the only option. It’s still an option, sure, but most households consume far more than a sustainable share and reducing meat consumption is a good goal for any eco-den.

But how? I know it can be difficult to look at plant-based foods and see them as sources of protein, so that’s why I’ve compiled this list of the best options for anyone looking to add more variety to their diet.

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How much protein do you really need?

Proteins - Canada's new 2019 food guide: half fruits and vegetables, quarter whole grains, and quarter protein foods.
Government of Canada

Adequate protein intake is essential for healthy living, but the exact amount of protein someone needs each day depends on several factors including their gender, age, level of activity, muscle mass, and overall state of health.

As a general rule, the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.

This general guideline for sedentary males amounts to 56 grams of protein per day. For sedentary women, it amounts to 46 grams.

9 of the best plant-based protein sources

1. Seitan

Protein - Seitan dish with fresh garnish
Wikimedia Commons

Three ounces of seitan provides between 15-21 grams of plant-based protein. The reason for the range, according to Healthline, is that during processing other proteins like soy or legume flours may be added.

Haven’t heard of it? That’s okay, it’s probably one of the best kept secrets in the vegan and vegetarian communities. Seitan may sound scary, but it’s actually pretty delicious and resembles the texture of meat quite nicely. It’s made from vital wheat gluten and often referred to as “wheat meat.”

Recipe suggestions:

2. Lentils

Protein - Lentil bowl with veggies on table
Ella Olsson

One cup of cooked lentils provides nearly 19 grams of plant-based protein and is a good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.

Lentils have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight, and certain cancers.

Plus, they’re one of the most eco-friendly foods you can choose as they have an incredibly low carbon footprint.

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3. Chickpeas

Protein - Chickpea curry with herbs and white rice on natural wood table
Dragne Marius

One cup of cooked chickpeas provides 15 grams of plant-based protein, along with complex carbs and vital essential nutrients like potassium and phosphorous.

Chickpeas have also been found to help lower cholesterol levels and help regulate blood sugar levels.

Recipe suggestions:

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4. Nutritional Yeast

Protein - Nutritional yeast in soup served in a bowl
Toa Heftiba

One tablespoon of fortified nutritional yeast provides 2 grams of complete protein, along with a dairy-free cheesy flavour. It’s also a powerhouse of B vitamins and contains trace minerals like zinc.

Nutritional yeast makes for a nutrient-rich seasoning in a wide-variety of recipes. Don’t let the fish food-like texture deter you. It’s great on popcorn, pizza, pasta, and in salad dressings.

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5. Oats

Protein - Granola with fruit, seeds, and milk in bowl

A half cup of raw oats provides nearly 17 grams of plant-based protein, along with antioxidants and more soluble fiber than other grains.

Oats have been shown to lower levels of bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

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6. Hemp Seeds

Protein - Hemp seeds in white dish with wooden spoon
Pixabay

Two-to-three tablespoons of hemp seeds provide about 11 grams of plant-based protein and a perfect balance of the heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The nutrients in hemp seeds have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. And no, eating hemp seeds cannot get you intoxicated.

Recipe suggestions:

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7. Green Peas

Protein - Green pea soup with mint sprig
Pixabay

One cup of canned green peas provides just under 8 grams of plant-based protein and is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and minerals iron, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.

These little green gems are also an eco-friendly favourite because their crops actually work to fix nitrogen issues in soil.

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8. Peanuts

Protein - Peanut and sweet potato curry served with white rice
Pixabay

One ounce of peanuts provides just over 7 grams of plant-based protein. Nuts in general are a good choice because they provide a healthy dose of cholesterol-free fat and support cardiovascular health. To keep it healthy, stick with unsalted varieties and choose raw options when available.

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9. Broccoli

Protein - A plate of steamed broccoli, roasted potatoes, and chickpea falafel
Pixabay

One cup of raw chopped broccoli flowerettes provides about 2.5 grams of plant-based protein. One medium stalk, on the other hand, can provide up to 4 grams.

Broccoli also provides a rich source of fiber and cancer-preventing antioxidants. It’s also known as a great food for detox diets as it can help clean your cells of toxins.

Recipe suggestions:

Cover image credit: Edgar Castrejon

 

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