Protein Rich Plant Foods
All the health benefits for Vegetarians and Vegans
Tempeh and Vegetable Salad
Having been a vegetarian for over forty years, one of the first things friends and family often ask me while discussing my eating habits is – Where do I get my protein. The funny thing is that these same people have absolutely no clue what protein actually is, or for that matter, what function protein has on the human body. Why is it that nonvegetarians think that protein only comes from a meat source? It would appear that this kind of irrational thinking has been passed down from one generation to another and that this meat-eating philosophy is the only way humans can maintain their wellbeing.
Let us take a closer look at the very footprint protein-rich plant foods have on our system. The first thing we need to be aware of and that protein are essential nutrients the human body needs as a building block to help tissue development. Protein also serves as an excellent fuel source which in turn provides us with high energy levels. However, we cannot exclude the most important aspect of protein from a nutritional standpoint, and that is its amino acid composition.
Proteins are polymer molecules all strung together to form really long chains made of amino acids. They are linked together by peptide bonds. During digestion, these proteins are broken down in the stomach into smaller polypeptide molecule chains via hydrochloric acid and protease actions. This is paramount for the synthesis of the essential amino acids that cannot be biosynthesized by the body. There are nine essential amino acids, which we need in order to prevent protein-energy malnutrition. And they are Phenylalanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine and Histidine.
There are also five dispensable amino acids, which we are able to synthesize in the body. They are alanine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamic acid and serine. There are also six conditionally essential amino acids whose synthesis can be limited under special pathophysiological conditions. These are Arginine, Cysteine, Glycine, Glutamine, Proline, and Tyrosine. We need these essential amino acids in certain ratios, and especially for infants or individuals who experience rapid weight loss and skeletal muscle mass.
While I’m not here to discuss the protein in meat, I am here to enlighten you on all the protein-rich foods found in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. You have to understand that vegans and vegetarians can get plenty of essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins. I also don’t want you to get all wound up with all the scientific jargon herein, but rather concentrate purely on the food sources needed to get all the health benefits of living a healthy meat-free diet. No matter what others say, you can still get all the benefits of protein from a vast range of plant foods.
Tofu and Avocado Salad
Protein Rich Plant Foods
- Brussel Sprouts
- Soya Beans
- Lima Beans
- Black Beans
- Brown and Wild Rice
- Steel Cut Oats
- Nuts, including Almond, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts and Cashew Nuts
- Peanut and Peanut Butters
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Chia Seeds
Protein Rich Plant Food – Chia Seeds
Not only are Chia Seeds a good source of protein, they are also high in nutrients, are naturally filling, they support digestion, are great for energy and endurance as well as being versatile in recipes. Long before Aztec warriors first discovered the medicinal properties and nutritional value of Chia Seeds, they have now become one of the most popular Superfoods today. And the reason for this is simply because they are also a rich source of anti-oxidants, fibre, omega 3 and 6 fats, vitamins and minerals such as sulfur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, niacin and thiamine.
Protein Rich Plant Food – Edamame
At first glance, Edamame has the appearance of fresh green peas, still in their pods. They are young soybeans that have been harvested before the beans themselves have had a chance to harden. Apart from being an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium, they naturally gluten-free, are also low in calories and contain no cholesterol whatsoever. While you may not find them that easily at your local supermarket, if you go come across them, they make for a perfect snack or as part of a whole meal. If you should dine out at a Japanese restaurant, check to see if they are part of their menu. Some of the health benefits derived from the plant based food are that they help decrease the possibilities of diabetes, breast, and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and inflammation.
Protein Rich Plant Food – Soya Beans, Tofu, and Tempeh
Studies have shown that several compounds found in Soya Beans and related products such as Tofu, Tempeh, and Miso may help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and ease some of the discomforts of menopause. Most of us know what Soya Beans look like. If not, see photo above. But do you know the difference between Tofu, Tempeh, and Miso? Tofu is a creamy white, cheeselike food made from curdled soya milk used mostly in soups, stir-fries, and desserts. Tempeh is chunky, tender cakes made from fermented soya beans that are laced with mold, thus giving them a distinct smoky and nutty flavour. Best grilled or in a casserole. Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, salt, and fungus. Sometimes rice, barley or other ingredients are added.