Protein is an essential part of any healthy diet. Without protein, we simply wouldn’t survive, so it’s crucial that we get plenty in our diets every day.
Protein foods are the building blocks of life - it is essential for all aspects of growth and repair; your body uses protein to make new cells and body tissues and repair old ones.
Protein is not just found in meat…
Most people can quickly identify meat, fish and dairy products as protein foods, but many aren’t aware that protein is found in plants too. Not just for vegetarians and vegans, plant proteins are highly beneficial for your health at any age, and regardless of your dietary preferences. In fact, many studies show that risks of many common chronic diseases are reduced when you include a higher proportion of plant protein in your diet. Plant proteins provide the nutrients needed for growth and repair, as well as a wide range of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre and low levels of saturated fat. In contrast, animal proteins typically contain higher levels of saturated fat, which can increase risks of common chronic diseases.
Here are some of the best plant sources of protein:
• Beans, chickpeas & lentils
• Nuts & seeds
• Pea protein
• Rice protein
• Coconut milk
• Chia seeds
• Nut & seed butter
Is plant protein as good as animal protein?
Animal protein (meat, fish, dairy) is more similar to the protein found in our bodies and so can be used more readily and rapidly than plant proteins. Don’t be put off though, plant proteins are more than capable of supporting all aspects of growth and repair too, you just need to make sure you’re eating a wide variety of different sources and that this is complemented by a healthy balanced diet. This may take a bit of extra effort, but the potential long-term benefits are vast.
How to get more plant protein into your diet
Cottage pie / shepherd’s pie – Halve the amount of red meat that you would normally use and add red lentils instead.
Beany chilli – Use less red meat (or none at all) and instead add plenty of kidney beans and chickpeas.
Filled tacos / wraps / burritos – Black beans, guacamole and brown rice make a perfect protein-packed filling for a wrap, taco or burrito.
Houmous – Made from chickpeas and perfect as a snack with carrot sticks or oatcakes.
Quinoa – Try this grain instead of rice or couscous as it’s quick and easy to make and packed with plant-based protein too.
Protein-packed soups & salads – Add red lentils to soups and chickpeas to salads for an easy way to add more plant protein into your diet.
Nuts & seeds – Add nut butter and ground seeds to smoothies, or simply snack on a handful of plain nuts.
Soy protein-based powdered metabolic food that mixes into a delicious shake – this can be a nourishing snack anytime or occasional breakfast on the go.