We all know protein is important. But even if we're vaguely aware that we need to watch our protein intake, it's easy to write it off as something only body builders or people on strict diets need to worry about. For women especially, it's not uncommon to go without a good source of protein until the evening meal.
Protein is about more than building muscle. Each and every body part requires protein to function, from red and white blood cells to hair and skin (all made of protein.) Eating protein at every meal stabilizes our blood sugar levels, helping with everything from mood to weight management to nervous system health.
So how do we boost our protein intake without resorting to a big hunk o' steak? It's easy to get more protein in your diet without sacrificing your favorite meals. Power up your existing favourites with these easy-to-use plant-based sources of protein.
1. Fermented Protein Powder
Health Benefits: While regular vegan protein powders can sometimes be difficult to digest, the fermented variety supports healthy gut bacteria.
How To Use: Blend it in with your morning smoothie.
2. Ground Flaxseeds
Health Benefits: On top of being high in protein, flaxseeds are also a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Their fiber content and mucilaginous nature also make them great for gut health.
How To Use: Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto oatmeal or cooked veggies for a nutty flavour. You can also add ground flaxseeds to homemade baked goods. Recent studies have found that cooking flaxseeds leaves the omega-3 content intact.
3. Chia Seeds
Health Benefits: Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Because they can absorb so much liquid (becoming a chia "gel"), they can also help prevent dehydration.
How To Use: Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on porridge, used to make puddings, or even as a grain-free "breading" for chicken or fish (if you eat it!).
4. Sunflower Seeds
Health Benefits: High in protein, sunflower seeds are also anti-inflammatory, which can help with symptoms of conditions like asthma and arthritis.
How To Use: Sunflower seeds can be sprinkled on salads and porridge. Ground sunflower seeds can also be used in place of flour to dust meats or added to grain-free baking recipes.
5. Nut Butters
Health Benefits: High in healthy fats and protein, nuts are wonderful for balancing your blood sugar levels, and using all-natural nut butters is a great way to get them in your diet.
How To Use: Add a scoop of almond butter to your green smoothies, spread some cashew butter on a homemade gluten-free muffin or replace the maple syrup on your oatmeal with a spoonful of your favourite nut butter variety.
Health Benefits: While "green" isn't normally the color you'd think of when it comes to protein, this algae is actually a 65% highly-digestible protein. It's also incredibly high in calcium, making it great for bone health.
How To Use: Spirulina makes for awesome addition to a green smoothie. It can be strong-tasting, so start slow!
7. Hemp Seeds
Health Benefits: Hemp seeds are packed with protein. They also contain the ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
How To Use: Hemp seeds can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on top of salads. They are soft and don't need straining, so they're great for making dairy-free seed milk, too.
8. Alfalfa Sprouts
Health Benefits: Sprouts are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, and alfalfa sprouts are made up of as much as 35% highly-digestible protein.
How To Use: Sprouts are an awesome salad-topper or great addition to any green smoothie. These are an easy one to grow yourself. Check out this handy sprouting tutorial.
9. Chickpea Flour
Health Benefits: Baked goods aren't exactly the first thing protein source you'd think of, but swapping your usual flour for a high-protein, gluten-free one is a great way to add a protein boost to your day. Since chickpea flour is made of dried, ground chickpeas, it contains all the health benefits of these nutrient-packed beans, including antioxdiants, digestive support and blood sugar regulation.
How To Use: Chickpea flour works best in gluten-free baking recipes when it makes up no more than 25% of the total flour content, so mix and match it with other flours for best results.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
Health Benefits: Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, which key to nervous system health and is necessary for more than 300 chemical reactions in the human body. They're also high in, you guessed it, protein!
How To Use: Pumpkin seeds can be added to your morning smoothie (use pumpkin seed butter if you don't have a high-speed blender), used in baked goods or sprinkled on porridge. Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds also make an awesome salad topper!