Plant-based food options are too often left out of conversations about protein, often due to a misguided view that protein only comes from chicken, beef and cheese. Indeed, meat and dairy do often contain high protein content, but they can also compromise our health in various ways. We’re here to dispel the myth that green = less protein and prove once and for all that plants can supply their fair share of these vital nutrients. From leafy greens to nuts and seeds, here are your 10 best options from healthy plant-based protein.
Leading our healthy plant-based protein list is quinoa, a nutrient-rich seed and one of few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, iron and B-vitamins, alongside an endless array of vital antioxidants.
It might not be large in size, but the humble chia seed packs an incredible amount of nutritional goodness in its tiny frame. Protein is prominent, as are fiber and healthy fats such as Omega-3. Great for adding a healthy boost – and crunch – to a morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal.
Nuts vary in size, shape and flavor, yet each provides plenty of nourishment thanks to a steady supply of protein, minerals and Vitamin E. Almonds and walnuts are among the healthiest variety; both are great in home-made trail mixes or healthy baked goods.
These little wonders get their dark color from a mega-supply of anthocyanins, the same antioxidant that can be found in superfoods such as beets and tart cherries. They also pack in the protein and fiber, an energizing, nourishing and filling combination.
Like lentils, beans are among the cheapest sources of protein out there. Whether it’s kidney, black, white or pinto, each variety can be used in anything from salads to pastas and stir-fries. A quick tip: rinsing and draining canned beans helps remove much of their sodium content, but you will lose the aquafaba liquid that’s often used to make wonderful sauces.
While quinoa and chia lead the way, there are a host of other seeds that supply their fair share of healthy plant-based protein. Sesame, hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds all come to mind, each accompanied with a protein-dense nutritional boost. Sprinkle into salads, shakes, muesli and granola mixes.
A fermented soy food, tempeh is made by treating cooked whole soybeans with bacterial cultures and forming a soft, chewy cake that resembles the soy counterpart tofu. Tempeh has quickly become a trendy healthy plant-based protein solution, and for good reason. There are almost 20 grams of protein per one ounce serving, along with an equally generous amount of fiber.
If it’s leafy and green, it’s likely a protein-yielding machine. Broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, collards, green peas… the list goes on. Each of these options offers between 4-8 grams of protein per cup. Incorporating green vegetables into your daily diet makes good healthy sense.
Of all the non-dairy milk options, soy leads the way in the protein race. Each cup matches regular milk in terms of its protein output, delivering about 6-8 grams’ worth. It also serves up plenty of potassium, helping balance blood pressure and improve muscle function.
Rounding out our list of healthy plant-based protein is spirulina, a fresh-water plant that qualifies as a cyanobacteria; a super healthy one at that. Spirulina has an incredibly high concentration of protein, as well as other health-promoting components such as antioxidants and B-vitamins. Those vivid green smoothies you enviably eye are often filled with this superfood.
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