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Protein: Good Sources of Plant Proteins

Updated on July 30, 2014
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Tips from the Nutrition Consultant

WHY PROTEIN?

Did you know that along with water, protein is more plentiful than any other substance in our bodies?

Proteins contain important elements that help maintain our overall health. Many people think that protein is only for muscles, but in fact, our tissues, bones, and nerves are made up mostly of proteins.

Proteins:

  • Help support muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, and organs such as the heart and brain.

We don't need excess amounts of high protein foods, since any excess amounts not used will be stored as fat. That being said, think of how many times you've seen restaurant food have extremely large portion sizes of meats. Ideally, about 4 ounces of meats is the right amount for energy use in our body. Any extra goes to our fat cells.

This is why I feel there are several benefits in knowing your plant sources of proteins. Plant proteins:

  • Contain fiber, which aids in digestion, regulated blood sugar, and a healthier immune system. Animal protein contains no fiber.
  • Can offer antioxidants, such as selenium and Vitamin E.
  • Help promote better energy levels in the body, as well as help maintain healthier blood pressure levels, thanks to magnesium and potassium.
  • Contain more absorbable forms of iron.


Proteins in Legumes and Grains

Legumes and Grains
Amount
Protein in grams
Barley
1/2 cup
3.6
Black beans
1 cup
15
Black-eyed peas
1 cup
13
Brown rice
1 cup
9
Chickpeas
1 cup
15
Kidney beans
1 cup
15
Lentils
1 cup
18
Lima beans
1 cup
15
Oatmeal
1 cup
6
Peas
1 cup
9
Quinoa
1 cup
6
Tempeh*
1 cup
30
*Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Soy products should be non-GMO or organic. For some people, soy products can affect the thyroid.
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Nuts and Seeds!

Who doesn't love nuts and seeds as snacks? These are great sources of protein and you don't even need that much!

I love nut butters on a whole grain rice cake or homemade bread! My favorite is sunflower butter and is pictured here. In just 2 Tablespoons of this sunflower butter, you get:

  • 7 grams of protein
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 27% Vitamin E (a super antioxidant)
  • 25% Magnesium (good for your muscles and blood pressure)

If you notice, I also get the natural peanut butter for my husband. It has two ingredients: peanuts and salt. Too many peanut butters these days have so much junk in them, it makes them health hazards. Read your ingredients!

Proteins in Nuts and Seeds

Nut or Seed
Amount
Protein in grams
Almonds
1/4 cup
7.4
Cashews
1/4 cup
5
Flaxseeds
2 Tablespoons
4
Hemp seeds
3 Tablespoons
15
Peanut butter
2 Tablespoons
7
Sunflower seeds
1 ounce
6
Walnuts
1 ounce
4
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Vegetables as Proteins?

Of course, we never think of a vegetable as a protein, do we? Well, in fact, many of them contain small amounts! In addition to these proteins, we should know that our yummy vegetables are also a good source of:

  • Fiber!
  • Antioxidants (like Vitamin A and C)
  • Phytochemicals (that are good anti-cancer agents)

My favorite Top 4 vegetables:

  • Broccoli: 1 cup = 5 grams of protein!
  • Kale: 1 cup = 2 grams of protein!
  • Spinach: 1 cup = 5 grams of protein!
  • Sweet Potato: 1 medium = 2 grams of protein!

Keep in mind that kale and spinach should be lightly cooked to release the nutrients and make them more absorbable. In addition, it is said that spinach contains an acid, that when eaten raw, can block calcium absorption.

Do you eat a good amount of plant proteins?

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A Few More Words....

I encourage everyone to eat less meat. I don't push vegetarianism or veganism on anyone though. Everyone's body is designed differently, and some people need more protein than others. However, eating more plant sources of protein promotes healthier blood pressure, more stable blood sugar levels, better cholesterol and less fat in the body. Plant sources of protein allow for easier digestion and offer many antioxidant benefits. Perhaps try a Meatless Monday?

Along with this, I support eating whole sources of proteins as much as possible. While some vegans and vegetarians may opt for "fake meat," I encourage doing this only in moderation. Some of these overly processed forms of "meat" are more risks than eating the real thing. Like I stated earlier, it is important to read the ingredients. This goes for alternative milks too, such as Almond Milk. If you choose to consume meat, I always say it is wise to look for locally raised meats and organic choices, so you are not digesting those nasty "extras" like hormones and antibiotics. Of course, this also goes for plant sources of proteins too. Know which ones are GMOs and which ones are better as organic.

Here's to your health!

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    • Jacante profile image

      Jacante 4 years ago

      Great Hub!

      Very informative, and it's great to spread the word that one doesn't have to rely on animal based foods for protein. I've been a vegetarian for over a decade, the most common comment I receive: How do you get your protein?

      Nice job, I'll share this!

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Thank you Jacante! Yes, you are right! Many people think I must starve! I get asked the same thing! I appreciate your response!

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Thank you sarifearnbd! I thought it would be useful for everyone!

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 4 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      This is interesting. I am trying to cut down on meat so this helps! Thanks

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi Sheri Faye! Glad this can help! We have lots of options!

    • naturalife profile image

      naturalife 4 years ago from Far Far Away

      Vandy,

      This is a great informative hub. Recently, I have cut down on meat and would like to eventually have 100% vegetarian diet. I am still eating fish though, since I come from an island, and fish seems to be the only protein in abundance and free.

      Looking forward to reading more of your hubs, Naturalife.

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi Naturalife, I know many "flexitarians" who only eat meat occasionally.....I think some fish is quite beneficial, especially if it is lower in mercury and wild caught! Thank you for responding!

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 4 years ago from India

      Very interesting hub. We have lentils nearly everyday in our food. Either in lunch or dinner. Dal as we call it is staple food in India.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      As a vegetarian I truly enjoyed this hub and its down to earth approach that I think is much more effective at getting meat eaters to at least try plant proteins :) I love quinoa we eat it regularly in place of rice and it's much more nutritious and satisfying.

      We also use Chia Seeds for protein - they offer the full amino chain as well. Great hub - shared.

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi sweetie1, I love lentils! And they are so good for you! It is such an easy way to get protein, fiber, iron......

      Thank you for responding!

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi ChristinS, Thank you for responding! I like quinioa too and so many people have a hard time believing that it is a complete source of protein. I haven't tried chia seeds yet, but have heard great things about them!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great information! I didn't know that brown rice has protein! And all those veggies, too. Good to know!Voted up and more!

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi Victoria Lynn, Thank you for your response! Yes, it is amazing where we can find our protein! It just takes a little research :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      We love it when we can get vegetables right out of our garden. We always have beans, and nuts around. Have not changed to almond milk yet. Great hub voted up.

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi moonlake! I love it when I can get the vegetables right out of our garden too! My beans didn't do too well this year though! Thanks for reading!

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