Protein is a buzzword these days, but what is protein? And how much protein do you need? What are the ideal plant-based protein sources? Can you have too much protein?

What Is Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient for the building, maintenance, and repair of almost all the tissues in your body, including your bones, muscles, blood, hair, nails, and organs. As for how much protein a person needs, the answer is the amount that a diet of whole, plant-based foods provides. Are you concerned about not getting enough protein?  Don’t be.  All whole, plant-based foods have protein. People thrive on a plant-based diet without ever going out of their way to find sources of protein. Indeed, we’ve evolved over millions of years without ever aiming for a “source” of this or any other nutrient.

Lentils

Protein: 9 g per ½-cup serving

Low-cal, high-fiber, and high-protein lentils can be morphed into a nutrient-dense side dish, veggie burger, or even whipped into a hummus-like dip. Bonus: They’ve been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease.

Black Beans

Protein: 7.6 g per ½-cup serving (cooked)

Black beans are also packed with heart-healthy fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and a range of phytonutrients.

Lima Beans

Protein: 7.3 g per ½-cup serving (cooked)

What, you haven’t had these since you were 10? Well, good news: In addition to filling protein, lima beans contain the amino acid leucine, which may play a big role in healthy muscle synthesis among older adults.

Peanuts or Peanut Butter

Protein: 7 g per ¼-cup serving (or 2 Tbsp peanut butter)

Not only are peanuts and peanut butter great for munching and whipping up classic childhood comfort food, they’re also super versatile—really, you can even use them in a pizza. They’ve also been shown to help you eat less at lunch if you consume them at breakfast—aka the second-meal effect. PB and banana, anyone? Just make sure to use a peanut butter that’s 100% nuts and doesn’t contain added sugars.

Wild Rice

Protein: 6.5 g per 1-cup serving (cooked)

Move over, quinoa. Wild rice is the protein-rich grain you should be gravitating toward. With a nutty taste and slightly chewy texture, it’s way more satisfying, too.

Chickpeas

Protein: 6 g per ½-cup serving

Permission to eat all the hummus—well, maybe not all of it, but chickpeas’ combo of protein and fiber make for one healthy dip.

Almonds

Protein: 6 g per ¼-cup serving

Along with protein, almonds deliver some serious vitamin E, which is great for the health of your skin and hair.They also provide 61% of your daily recommended intake of magnesium, which can help curb sugar cravings, soothe PMS-related cramps, boost bone health, and ease muscle soreness and spasms.

Chia Seeds

Protein: 6 g per 2 Tbsp

Chia seeds pack a ton of protein in those pint-sized orbs, which are also a great source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Bonus: Omega-3s help stimulate the satiety hormone leptin, which signals your body to burn these fats instead of storing them.

Cashews

Protein: 5 g per ¼-cup serving

In addition to a decent protein punch, cashews contain 20% of the recommended intake of magnesium, along with 12% of the recommended intake of vitamin K—two essential bone-building nutrients.

Pumpkin Seeds

Protein: 5 g per ¼-cup serving

Pumpkin seeds aren’t just a super convenient way to get a dose of satiating protein, they’re total nutrient powerhouses, packing about half the recommended daily intake of magnesium, along with immune-boosting zinc, plant-based omega-3s, and tryptophan—which can help ease you into a restful slumber.

Spinach

Protein: 3 g per ½-cup serving (cooked)

Sure, 3 g may not sound like a lot, but for a green veggie, it is. Still, don’t just make a salad and call it a day. Cooking this green is the secret to upping its protein content.

 

 

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