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Plant Protein Power

Delicious Sources of Vegetarian Protein 

Protein is a buzz word in the dieting world, but do you know how much protein your body actually needs? According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the average American male takes in about 102 grams of protein per day, and the average for women is about 70 grams. The reality is, most people need about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day—that’s just 61 grams for a 170 pound man! 

Too much protein, especially animal protein, has been linked to infertility, cancer, and overall mortality. It’s a common misconception that vegetarians don’t get the protein they need, but there are plenty of protein-packed plants that don’t come with these risks. Vegetation proteins are also easier on the environment, wallet, and waist. We’ve rounded up some of the top plant protein sources that you can add to your daily diet. 

Lentils: They may be little, but lentils are packed with protein—just one cup contains 18 grams. Lentils are also a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber to provide you with plenty of energy and fill you up without filling you out. They are extremely versatile and are commonly used as the main ingredient in curries, soups, and stews. They can even be used to make vegetarian meatballs, like in our recipe for Lentil “Meatballs” with Kale Pesto

Black Beans: Beans have been a long-standing staple in the kitchen, and it’s easy to see why. Just half a cup of black beans packs about 8 grams of protein as well as 7.5 grams of fiber for just 114 calories.Black beans also pack anthocyanins, an antioxidant compound with anti-inflammatory effects. Although they are perhaps best known for their prominent role in Latin and Hispanic foods, black beans can also be used to make burgers and brownies. Black Bean Avocado and Lettuce Bowls is an easy dish the whole family will love. 

Nuts and Nut Butters: Get nutty! A 2-tablespoon serving of nut butter or a ¼ cup serving of nuts contains about 7 to 9 grams of protein. Nuts make a perfect snack because they are easy to pack and you only need a handful to feel satisfied. Make your own trail-mix by combining your favorite nuts and dried fruit or top off your salad or oatmeal for an added boost of protein. You can also add nut butter to smoothies—try The Tropics made with pineapple, banana and almond butter. 

Quinoa: Looking for something new? While quinoa is technically a seed, it is most often used like a grain in the kitchen. One half-cup serving has 7 to 9 grams of protein. Substitute quinoa for rice or pasta, mix it into a salad, or try it for breakfast topped with almond milk and berries. Quinoa and Asparagus Salad is the perfect dish for spring. 

Soy: Soy products, including tofu, tempeh, and edamame are well known substitutes for meat. Tofu has a smooth, silky texture that soaks up flavors well—experiment with your favorite spices and marinades! Edamame, soybeans harvested at an early age, are delicious straight out of the pod or shelled in salads, like in our recipe for Spring Green Shoots.

Published April 1, 2016

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