Importance of protein
Protein is one of the most important nutrients in our diet. It is considered a macronutrient, meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. Carbohydrates and fat are the two other macronutrients. A big difference between the three is that carbohydrates and fat are stored in the body so if you are running low on energy your body can use these stores. However, protein is not stored, so you must ensure you are getting enough through your diet and/or supplementation if needed. Protein is a component of every cell in our bodies. Our hair and nails are mostly made up of protein. Protein is essential for speeding up the recovery process after exercise, reducing muscle loss, building lean muscle, helping you maintain a healthy weight and keeping you full for longer.
The shift to plant-based protein
There has been a steady rise in the popularity of plant based protein over the last few years. Particularly in 2020, consumers have been influenced by celebrities and sports stars who have turned away from meat. Professional tennis players Novak Djokovic and the Williams sisters Venus and Serena as well as other celebrities like Beyoncé, Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus have chosen to live plant based diets. The demand for plant based options has increased globally. Many companies, such as Kerry Foods are developing new plant based ranges to keep up with the demand.
High protein plant based foods
A lot of people assume that it is hard to find sources of protein for vegans. This is a common misconception as there are lots of plant based options high in protein. Some of the best sources of plant based protein include spirulina, tofu, chia seeds, peas, quinoa, nutritional yeast and lentils.
Spirulina is a brilliant complete plant based protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. Just 7g of spirulina contains 4g of protein. Many people can find spirulina hard to consume because of it’s earthy taste. A great way to mask the taste of spirulina is mixed into a smoothie or even a bowl of porridge. The Minimalist Baker has a great five minute, five ingredient Green Spirulina Smoothie using frozen banana, cucumber, coconut milk and hemp seed. It makes a creamy, bright-green, insanely nutritious breakfast option!
Tofu is one of our favourite sources of plant-based protein here at Blendi. It is incredibly versatile. For example, soft tofu can be blended into a smoothie or incorporated into vegan cheeses, while hard tofu can be used in stir-frys and rice dishes. The tenderness of tofu makes it easier to soak up sauces and spices while cooking. Table for Two has a delicious recipe on their blog called Pan-fried Sesame Garlic Tofu. For those of you who think you don’t like tofu, you haven’t tried this recipe yet!
These tiny little nutritional powerhouses contain approximately 3.5 grams of protein per two tablespoons. They are also packed with other essential nutrients for plant based diets like calcium, iron and zinc. The Fit Foodie blog has a fantastic Protein Chia Seed Pudding recipe that can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert. They keep well in the fridge and are so key when you don’t have enough time to whip something up on the spot.
Peas are a legume with a standout source of protein. They are inexpensive, heart-healthy foods. It is a great option if you are allergic or sensitive to whey or soy. Pea protein is a high-quality protein and a great source of iron. It is the perfect option for any diet as it is naturally vegan and hypoallergenic. Traditionally, peas have been eaten at dinner time. Now with the growing demand for plant based protein options, brands like Blendi are coming up with innovative and tasty ways to eat peas as a snack.
Quinoa is one of the most popular health foods and comes in three different colours, white, red and black. It is high in protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It is therefore called a complete protein, just like tofu. Quinoa is also gluten-free, making it a great alternative for coeliacs at meal times. There are so many ways to enjoy quinoa. One of our favorites is the Meditteranean Quinoa Salad by Fit Foodie. Another great recipe using quinoa is by Chelsea’s messy apron. It is an avocado quinoa salad packed with healthy ingredients.
These nutty yellow flakes contain about 8 grams of protein per two tablespoons. Yes, they do look like rabbit food but they also do taste wonderful. Nutritional yeast is a vegan food product with a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor. It comes in both fortified and unfortified varieties and can be found in most health food stores. It is also naturally low in sodium and calories, as well as fat-free, sugar-free and gluten-free. Nutritional yeast is great sprinkled on top of scrambled eggs. A great vegan scrambled egg recipe you could try is on the virtual vegans blog page. Soft, rich, buttery scrambled eggs on thick, hot toast, what more could you want. Sunday brunch sorted!
All beans have protein, but lentils top the list with a whopping 18 grams per cup. They are also high in fibre and low in fat and calories. Lentils are a perfect option to boost your protein intake. They are also naturally gluten-free, making them a perfect staple for many households. Rozanna Purcell has a great recipe in her cookbook and online food blog, Natural Born Feeder. It is the Fast Vegan Red Lentil Dahl which serves four to five people and can be cooked in just 30 minutes. Another great recipe Rozanna shares using lentils is her Squash and Lentil Dahl, a favourite winter comfort bowl.
As you can see from the above, yes there is sufficient protein in plant based foods. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to plant based protein. Don’t ever feel short of choices!