Protein is absolutely vital for maintaining good health - we need it to feel full, maintain energy, build and repair muscle, process nutrients, and regulate our hormones.
But while loading up on red meat, poultry, eggs and dairy might be the most efficient way to meet your protein requirements, it’s not necessarily the most preferred option for a growing number of people. With lactose intolerances on the rise and an increasingly number of people switching to vegetarian and vegan diets, plant-based foods are becoming more heavily relied upon to fulfil people’s protein needs.
But can you get enough protein from foods that aren’t meat or dairy? The answer is, yes, you definitely can. In fact, making an effort to eat more plant-based protein offers some major health perks, as they’re foods typically lower in calories and higher in other nutrients, including fibre, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium.
So, if you’re wanting to start incorporating more plant-based proteins in your diet (and you certainly should!), but don’t know where to start, keep reading! We’ve put together this list of 8 foods that you may be surprised to know give you great protein bang for your bite!
Pronounced keen-wah, this ancient grain became popular a few years ago when its high-protein properties became known to the larger population.
Containing around 8 grams of protein per cup, quinoa is one of the few complete plant protein sources, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. While it may look like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed that’s also naturally gluten-free and therefore a great alternative for those with gluten intolerances.
This incredibly versatile product can be replaced with any grain and is great with curries, in stews, soups and salads. It can even be cooked up and made into porridge for breakfast.
With half a cup of soybeans providing you with a hefty 34 grams of protein, this is one plant you’ll definitely want to be including more of in your diet!
Also considered a ‘whole protein’, soybeans provide the full range of amino acids which are essential for the body’s good health. While they can be eaten as they are, soybeans are typically consumed most frequently in their compressed form as Tofu or Tempeh. Both of these can be easy substitutes for meat and can be used in everything from curries and stir-fries thorough to a vegan alternative to cake frosting!
3. Legumes and Beans
Legumes and beans consist of a wide variety of plant-based foods, including black beans, kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas, so there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy.
While each of these contain varying amounts of protein, they also have bucket-loads of gut-friendly fibre. As well as keeping your digestive system regular, a diet high in fibre is ideal when trying to lose weight, as it leaves you feeling fuller for longer, helping you to ward off the 3pm munchies.
Beans and legumes really are incredible versatile and easy to cook with. While you can buy the dry version and cook them from scratch, the tinned option is a fast an effective way to inject any meal with a healthy dose of protein plant power.
Much like Quinoa, Buckwheat is commonly confused as a whole grain, but is in fact actually a seed. And being high in protein, fibre and magnesium, while also being gluten-free, this is a great plant-based protein alternative.
Buckwheat can be boiled and used instead of rice, or else you can source buckwheat flour and use it to whip up a batch of healthy muffins and cakes.
While the protein of each nut variety will differ, they are a great source of plant-based protein and contain a wealth of other health benefits.
Typically, almonds and pistachios have about 5-7 grams of protein per 30 grams, while macadamias and hazelnuts have 2–3 grams per 30 grams.
Nuts also contain healthy monosaturated fat and fibre, making them surprisingly filling and a great protein-filled snack option. They can also be mixed into your cereal, salads and baking.
6. Hemp Seeds
These vegan-friendly seeds are a great addition to any diet due to their high protein content while also being high in other nutrients, particularly energising magnesium. And having just become legalised for commercial sale in Australia, we think they could quickly become a pantry staple amongst health nuts alike.
While they can take a little more effort to source, they’re easy to include in your diet on a daily basis. Simply slip them into your smoothie, sprinkle on your cereal or toss them through a salad – done!
7. Chia Seeds
This small but powerful seed packs a punch when it comes to helping you meet your daily protein requirements, giving you 5 grams of protein in just 2 small tablespoons.
As well as their high protein content, they boast fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium and have been known to help regulate digestion. The best way to treat chis seeds as you would any other seed; sprinkle them onto your cereal, yogurt or smoothies, bake them into muffins or else soak them overnight to make a quick and easy chia pudding for breakfast.
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Containing 12 grams of protein per cup, eating ¼ of a cup of pumpkin seeds will also provide you with half of your daily magnesium needs.
Toasted or eaten plain, pumpkin seeds are another complete protein source that contain all nine essential amino acids. They’re also high in magnesium, which has been shown to lessen the effects of depression, and tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to promote better sleep.
If you’re looking to transition to a plant-based diet, or simply want to include more plant-based foods in your life, consuming enough protein is still more than achievable. By simply incorporating the above foods more frequently into your daily intake, you’ll be able to hit your protein requirements both easily and deliciously!