A lot of us know that meat is a good source of protein but there are actually other alternative sources of protein aside from meat such as plant proteins.
Plant proteins make for a viable and sustainable source of protein for those who are looking for options aside from meat. Perhaps your cholesterol level is high at the moment or blood pressure is already maintained with medication. Opting for plant proteins make for a healthier alternative to reduce cholesterol (there is no animal fat in plant proteins) and to help normalize blood pressure, among the many benefits of consuming plant-based foods.
Below are examples of plant proteins that you may consider stocking up in your pantry.
1. Pseudocereals — also called pseudograins, these are seeds from different plant species. Popular examples include chia seeds, quinoa and buckwheat.
2. Lentils and pulses — these are two types of edible seeds which grow inside pods. These have high protein content with some providing 20 grams of protein for every 100 grams used. Examples include red and yellow lentils (also known as dals, in Indian cuisine), chickpeas, dry peas and faba beans.
3. Sprouted grains — whole-grain seeds that have just begun to grow and are not plants yet. This list includes whole grains like wheat, barley, corn, oats and rice and other seeds like quinoa, flax and chia
4. Nutritional yeast — this is different from brewer’s yeast and is dairy-free and used as a supplement for people with food allergies or sensitivities. A 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast contains about 8 grams of protein. In modern day plant-based cooking, nutritional yeast is used as a vital ingredient in preparing dairy-free ‘cheese’ sauces.
5. Spirulina — a blue-green algae considered as superfood. It has gotten popular when NASA proposed that spirulina be grown in space for astronauts to use. A single tablespoon – 7 grams – of spirulina powder is packed with 4 grams of protein.
6. Soybeans — a type of legume that can be processed to develop soy products such as tofu, soymilk, soy sauce, and soybean oil, among others. A 100-gram boiled soybeans contains about 16.6g grams of protein.
7. Nuts — the likes of almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios, to name a few, are high in protein. Among them, almonds have the highest protein count at 7 grams per 1/4 cup serving.
8. Vegetables — broccoli (1 cup contains 2.5g of protein) and spinach (100g has about 2.9g of protein) are just two of the many vegetables that are rich in protein. Other examples are watercress, collard greens, Chinese cabbage.
Many protein-packed dishes can be made using plant proteins highlighted above. In fact, the easiest probably would be to sprinkle chia seeds in your meals as these are almost tasteless yet pack a punch in terms of nutritional value. I put chia seeds in my smoothie bowls or use them when I make puddings. They act as a great binder too every time I make plant-based burger patties, schnitzels and fritters.
Nuts would be easy to incorporate too — in fried rice or pasta (add lightly roasted cashew nuts, for example) or in making pasta sauces.
To introduce you to meat-free cooking, I am sharing below an easy, protein-packed dish that you can pair with soup to make for a complete meal:
A small can of chickpeas
Half a cucumber
A few sundried tomatoes, sliced
1. Remove skin of chickpeas.
2. Slice cucumbers into quarters.
3. Mix all the ingredients.
4. Add salt, olive oil and lemon.
5. Garnish with dill and lemon.
Yield: Serves 2 as a side. Good to pair with soup.
Note: You may add more leaves such as lettuce and other preferred greens for a bigger salad. Also, 100 grams of chickpeas contains 19 grams of protein.
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