Jan 19th 2018
Top 7 Surprising Sources of Protein

Do you get bored eating the same thing over and over again? I do, that’s why I like to keep a variety of plant protein sources in my kitchen cupboards because these are easy to store, versatile, have a long shelf life so not need to worry that the product will sit in your cupboard and go off.

Why I’m thinking about plant sources of protein is down to Veganuary, if you are interested in being vegan but not quite ready to take the leap then just try adding in more plant protein sources to give your body a better variety. With plant protein you get the added bonus of fibre, vitamins & minerals too.

Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year. Although I am not vegan, I take a Flexitarian approach instead; adopting a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of meat.

I like to look at lifestyle choices and pick & choose with what works for me, I also like to use seasonal produce in my cooking as much as possible and this all influences my flexitarian approach. When I feel I want to reduce the meat in my life I opt for plant protein sources and knowing about these helps to increase your protein intake at other times throughout the day, from snacks to breakfast or dinner.

 

1. Hemp

Hemp Seeds are 34% protein and are also a great source of essential omega oils. Hemp is also available in a concentrated powdered form with up to 50% protein content!

A downside of hemp is that it can go off quickly, in my humble opinion it doesn’t taste great as a protein powder (unless with added sweeteners) so I tend to stick to buying de-shelled hemp seeds and keep them in the fridge once opened for they can oxidise quickly, reducing nutritional goodness. How to use them? Sprinkle one to two tablespoons over anything you fancy, I feel they pair slightly better with savoury, I sprinkle over broccoli, salads, into coleslaw. They have quite a neutral mellow taste so could easily be added to a granola & yoghurt combination adding more protein and balancing out the protein, fat & carbohydrate ratio.

2. Chia

Chia seeds are actually 20% protein, and also have another trick up their sleeve: they swell up in water and keep the stomach feeling full. Like most seeds, they are also a great source of omega oils. The making you full thing is actually something you need to be aware of, drink more than you normally would on days where you consume chia. Recap my article on Chia: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

3. Quinoa

Unlike most grains, quinoa is a complete protein source, which means that it contains all eight essential amino acids in significant quantities. Quinoa is 13.5% protein and can be cooked within 20 minutes and eaten just like rice, can even buy pre-cooked packs for when cooking time is short. There are 120 varieties of quinoa however the three varieties that have been commercialised are of black, red and white and vary in taste and texture. White is mild and a fluffy texture, red (once cooked looks brown) is nuttier and slightly chewy and black has an earthier & sweeter flavour,  takes slightly longer to cook but it does keep its colour.

4. Pea Protein

This concentrated pea powder is 78% protein. It does taste slightly like peas, so it works well in casseroles and veg smoothies.  A great alternative to whey powder, It can be mixed into smoothies or used to thicken stews and so on.

5. Goji Berries

Goji berries are around 15.5% protein. They are also a complete protein, meaning they contain a good quantity of all eight amino acids – which is rare for a fruit! Eat them as you would any other berry. A handful at a time! Again I like pairing these with foods that compliment the sugar component, so with nuts like almonds or oats will help reduce the hit on sugar levels and provide you with slow releasing energy.

6. Almond Butter

Pure almond butter contains 25% protein and can be used just like peanut butter. Spreading it onto toast helps to slow down the convertion of carbohydrates into glucose, less of a spike on blood sugar levels. Can also mix into smoothies practically on detected and tastes really quite nice.

7. Lentils & Beans

Lentils surprisingly high in protein, with 9 grams per 1/2 cup (cooked). Their hearty texture and peppery flavor make them a good stand-in for ground beef in many recipes, such as Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Lentil Burgers and Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew.. You can buy them dried or canned.

Beans deliver around 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per 1/2-cup serving, though it may vary slightly depending on the type of bean. Top your salad with beans or use them in Vegetarian Chili or in place of meat in tacos and Vegetarian Taco Salad.

Where to start? Do a little brain storm, have a think about how certain ingredients could be swapped out for what you are using, even if it is once a week. Maybe beans & lentils are a good place if you think you will prefer more savoury dishes, or try adding chia seeds to granola or muesli and of course hemp seeds onto your salads- all of which can be picked up from your local health food shop (or supermarket).

Take what you want out of Veganuary and my Flexitarian approach of getting the best and most from what you eat.