Researchers found that women who ate more high-protein foods, especially plant-based protein, have lower blood pressure and stronger blood vessels — two key factors for cardiovascular health.
But it’s not always easy to get enough protein if you follow a plant-based diet. And even some healthy-seeming protein powders aren’t really that great for you since they can be loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or additives.
Here’s how to boost your protein intake without any artificial junk:
1. Add almond meal to oatmeal.
Super-healthy and endlessly customizable, oats are my go-to breakfast, especially in the cooler months. Where regular oats fall short, though, is protein — one serving has just 4 grams.
Add an extra 5 grams of protein by stirring a quarter-cup of ground almonds into your morning oatmeal as it cooks. Fine-ground almonds cook to form a smooth, polenta-like texture that works well with creamy oats, while more coarsely ground almonds give your oatmeal more crunch.
Flavor your breakfast like you would normal oatmeal. I love a mix of chopped pear and cranberries, or sliced bananas and cinnamon.
2. Trade in tofu for tempeh.
If you include soy in your diet, go for tempeh over tofu for a protein boost. A cup of tempeh has 30 grams of protein, compared to 20 grams in a cup of firm tofu. Tempeh also comes packed with B-complex vitamins, which help you metabolize nutrients, including protein.
Bonus: Because tempeh is fermented and less processed than tofu, it’s actually better for you anyway!
3. Swap out wheat and rice for quinoa.
Quinoa has a well-earned reputation as a protein powerhouse, with 8 grams of protein per cup. That’s significantly more than many other whole grains, including brown rice, which has just 5 grams of protein per cup.
And, unlike many plant-derived foods, quinoa is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids, including all seven amino acids that were linked to heart health.
It’s easy to use quinoa instead of other whole grains in casseroles, grain bowls — you name it! Reach for quinoa pastas and breads over rice or wheat-based versions to get more protein, too.
4. Use almond butter or spirulina in your smoothie.
Most smoothies get their protein from protein powder, but an expensive powder isn’t necessary. Making your smoothie with 2 tablespoons of almond butter ups your protein intake by 7 grams and helps you get more minerals, like manganese, that help you digest and use that protein.
If you’re tired of almond butter, a tablespoon of spirulina will add 4 grams of protein, plus lots of iron and copper.
5. Choose higher-protein green veggies.
It doesn’t get much better than greens when it comes to nutritional value. No matter which type you choose, you’ll get bone-building vitamin C plus antioxidants and beta-carotene. Certain green veggies help boost your protein intake too.
A cup of green peas, for example, has almost 9 grams of protein, while a cup of cooked spinach or collard greens has 5 grams. Roast a cup of Brussels sprouts, and you’ll take in 4 grams of protein.
6. Sprinkle hemp seeds over ... everything.
Hemp seeds are a staple in my kitchen thanks to their mellow flavor and pleasant crunch. They’re a great source of protein, at 10 grams per 3-tablespoon serving, plus they’re high in filling omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.
I sprinkle them on salads and cereal, bake them into muffins and breads, and even puree them into homemade salad dressings and hummus.
7. Power up pureed soups with almonds.
Pureed vegetable soups are a cool-weather detox staple — not to mention they’re delicious! I blend my soups with almonds to add creaminess and extra protein. Soak a cup of almonds in water overnight (or at least for a few hours) and add them to your soup just before blending.
A cup of almonds (measured before soaking) has 30 grams of high-quality protein, which means you’ll get an extra 4 to 8 grams of protein per serving, depending on your portion size.