Protein is an essential nutrient for our health. It functions as building blocks for bones, muscles, and more. They are also used for important chemical reactions, transporting nutrients, as well as building and repairing tissues.
Proteins are made up of amino acids which carry out many different functions. There are nine amino acids that our bodies cannot produce, called essential amino acids. Since we cannot produce them on our own, we need to get them from our food.
A food that contains all nine essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Many complete proteins are animal-based, such as fish, pork, or dairy. Meanwhile, plant-based proteins tend to be incomplete proteins. Luckily, by mixing and matching incomplete proteins, you can still get all nine essential amino acids.
Check out this chart by the American Society for Nutrition, to see what vegan proteins complement each other.
Legumes include lentils, beans, peas, edamame/soybeans, peanuts. These are typically low in fat and high in fiber, folate, and iron, making them great meat substitutes.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts contain protein along with healthy unsaturated fats and other nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Some great nut choices are almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Seeds are also full of healthy fats and fiber, and some (chia and flax seeds) are also good sources of omega-3. Here are some examples of healthy seed options: hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds.
Whole grains provide fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. They can also help your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, making them a healthy choice for any diet. Some of our favorite whole grains include wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice, and oats.
High Protein Vegetables
Vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While most have protein in small amounts, there are vegetables that can add a good amount of protein to your diet. Higher protein vegetables are corn, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and artichokes.