Protein: a gym junkie’s drug and a carnivore’s true love, protein is known to be a staple in the diet of a healthy adult due to its vital role in the growth and repair of cells. While this is irrefutable, a common misconception has been brewing around the beloved nutrient; that meat is the primary source of protein in a healthy diet.
In fact, many plant-based foods are bursting with the stuff. After all, where do you think animals get their protein from in the first place?
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, nine of which can’t be synthesised by the human body and must be sourced from food. When we eat animal products we are getting these amino acids secondhand from the foods the animals eat. So sourcing protein from plants is simply cutting out the middleman (or middle-animal I should say).
So while animal products are indeed good sources of protein, they can often be high in cholesterol and saturated fat. But you don’t need to eat meat and dairy to get a good hit of protein, there are a number of other wonderful vegetarian-friendly alternatives.
The average adult needs about 0.8kg of protein per kilogram of body weight a day, this calculates to around 50g of protein per day for the average adult, according to the Australian Daily Intake guidelines.
So whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or just want to ensure you are getting enough protein without having to tuck into a juicy steak every day, here are five protein-rich, ‘greener’ options to satisfy a meat-free Monday.
Meat-free ways to up your protein intake:
Supplementing your diet with protein powder is a quick and effective way to ensure you are getting enough amino acids and recovering properly after a strength workout. However when it comes to protein powders, there are a lot of products on the market that contain unnecessary, artificial ‘fillers’, which we heavily recommend you avoid. Also, if you’re vegan or dairy intolerant, finding a dairy-free protein that doesn’t taste like dirt is difficult. Our top pick is IsoWhey Wholefoods Organic Bio-Fermented Pea + Brown Rice Protein. Not only is it free from dairy and gluten but it’s vegan friendly and bursting with antioxidant rich superfoods for an added nutrient hit. It is flavoured with vanilla and lucuma so it’s tasty enough to mix with water.
Foods in the legume family get the big tick of approval when it comes to protein. For example, 1 cup of lentils contains 9g of protein; 1 cup of peas, 8g; 1 cup of chickpeas, 39g; 1 cup of black beans, 39g; 1 cup of kidney beans, 43g; and 1 cup of soybeans contains a whopping 68g of protein – more than the average daily intake. Not only are legumes protein-rich but they are excellent sources of fibre which can aid digestion. Add them to soups, mix into salads or turn them into a dip such as pea pesto and the traditional hummus.
This ancient Andean seed was labelled one of the first ‘superfoods’ to hit our shelves and has gone from a word we can’t pronounce to one found on every breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. But why? Although most grains provide a good hit of protein, quinoa is unique in that it has around 8g of protein per cup and it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own but needs for growth and repair. Quinoa is extremely versatile – stew it with fruit for breakfast, add it to soups, or toss it into a salad.
For a quick protein fix, seeds are a tiny food with a huge hit of protein. Merely three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 10g of protein. Other seeds high in protein include sunflower seeds, linseeds, pepitas, chia seeds and sacha inchi seeds. If you’re not getting enough of the vital nutrient, why not make up a seed mix and sprinkle them onto your breakfast bowl, in salads or mix them into smoothies? Alternatively try IsoWhey Wholefoods Organic Superfood Sprinkle or Organic Sacha Inchi Seeds for an extra tasty option.
Nuts and nut butter
We love a good nutty butter here at Sporteluxe HQ so to find out that they’re also bursting with protein has given us another excuse to get spreading! Nuts are naturally high in protein and good fats but can also quickly increase your calorie intake so be sure to choose ones that are raw or dry roasted and avoid honey coated or flavoured options. When it comes to nut butters, look for brands with few ingredients – just the nuts and maybe salt is best – alternatively you can make your own so you know exactly what’s going into it.