The recommended amount of protein intake is calculated to be 0.8g per kg of body weight
The continuing debate over how much protein the average person needs has done little to change our hunger for it. It’s understandable really, since protein is one of the basic building blocks of life.
When most people think about protein, they think of ingredients associated with animals, a leg of lamb, cheese, eggs fish. But, here is a little known fact – every whole food contains protein! Starting with your breakfast banana, and going all the way through to fresh salad leaves and green beans. Each of these plants is packed with super delicious proteins that are in fact easier for your body to process than the proteins associated with meats.
Plant-based foods are also practically free from cholesterol; they tend to be high in fibre, and are usually alkalizing to the body. On the other hand, all animal products are highly acidic and contain no or little fibre. Over time, a diet with greater acidity will cause calcium to be leached from your bones, as well as decreasing oxygen levels in the blood, and negatively impacting the digestive/lymphatic system.
Vegetable proteins are not usually complete proteins, there are a few exceptions such as soya beans, or Quinoa. That is to say they do not contain all nine amino acids that are present in a correct protein, to enable our bodies to build protein. Whole foods (vegetables, fruits, lentils) however, do not contain all nine amino acids, instead they have all the ‘essential amino acids’, and for this reason they are often relegated to the status of limited amino acids.
While it’s true that most whole plant foods have one or more limiting amino acids and are thus “incomplete”, this shouldn’t turn you into a raving carnivore. Our bodies are brilliant, and every food that goes into your system must be broken apart and its nutrients absorbed. During the digestion process, amino acid chains from all sources are broken down and made ready for our bodies to use. If you’re eating a good mix of fruits, veggies, grains and lentils, then your body simply collects what it needs from the “amino soup” that your digestion system has absorbed. There are a growing number of vegan bodybuilders, ultra-marathon runners, and award-winning athletes out there to prove that meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet is simple and successful.
Since every whole food has protein in it, you have lots of great choices to create a balanced diet with the right percentage of protein for your body.
Here are ten high protein vegetables to add to your diet
- Peas – 9g per cup – good source of Vit A, B and C, Thiamin, phosphorous, and iron. High in Fibre
- Broccoli – fat free protein 2.8 per 100g + 100% of your Vit C & K Recommended daily need
- Brussel sprouts – this cruciferous vegetable is not only high in protein, but also fibre
- Mange tout
Here are some more amazing reasons to pack in the wholefood proteins.
Soybeans contain more protein than any other bean variety, cooked soybeans have about 28 grams per cup, roughly the amount of protein that can be found in 150 grams of chicken.
These pods pack a mighty punch. Edamame are immature soybeans that are boiled or steamed in the pod and contains 22 grams of protein per cup. Pair that with your main protein dish, and you’ll be well on your way to the recommended 30 grams of protein per meal. Protein content: 16.9 g per cup (cooked)
From string beans to chickpeas, beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. When it comes to legumes, lentils are among the winners. They contain about 18 grams of protein per cup when cooked, and at 230 calories per serving, they’re good if you’re watching your weight. Another nutrient dense ingredient.
Asparagus is considered protein-rich in the vegetable world. Just 100 grams contains 2.4 grams of protein. Asparagus is also the number one plant source of vitamin K, as well as a good source of potassium and antioxidants. Protein content: 2.4 grams of protein per 100 grams
Once you’ve ground that gourd into a delicious pie, you might find yourself wondering what to do with the seeds. Roasting them provides a good snack alternative to chips, but did you know that just one ounce provides more than 5 grams of protein, more than half of the protein found in an egg?
In addition to being a plant-based protein bomb, diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with lower levels of gastric, breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. And if your suffer from insomnia then the L-tryptophan in pumpkin seeds has been suggested to encourage a good night’s sleep. Protein content: 5.2 grams per ounce (roasted)
Mung Bean Sprouts
Whether incorporated as part of a stir fry, or as an added crunch to a salad dish, mung bean sprouts are a great choice for some additional plant-based protein.
Once cup of cooked beans contains 2.5 grams of protein, and is packed with other nutrients such as lecithin, which may lower cholesterol, and zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in optimizing physical performance. Protein content: 2.5 grams per cup (cooked)
Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.