Getting tired of your usual protein sources? Give your body a break with these 8 vegan sources of protein from former pro Ironman triathlete, Brendan Brazier.
Whether you are an athlete or simply hoping to improve your health, adding more vegan proteins to your diet has many benefits. Even if you’re not vegan or consider yourself plant-based, everyone can benefit from adding even just one or two more servings of plant-based protein into their daily life—especially in the form of a smoothie.
Benefits of Eating More Minimally Processed Plant-based Proteins:
1. Lower in saturated fat, with no cholesterol
A diet rich in saturated fats and cholesterol (found mostly in meat, dairy and eggs) does not support optimal cardiovascular health. Unsaturated fats (found naturally in nuts and seeds, as well as avocados) on the other hand, help to keep your heart healthy. Plant foods never contain cholesterol.
2. More alkaline-forming and easy to digest
Plant-based proteins are more alkaline-forming than proteins from animals (meat, dairy, and eggs). Your body naturally has, and will always have, an alkaline pH. But, when you eat a lot of acid-forming foods, your body has to pull minerals from your bones to maintain an alkaline pH. Adding more alkaline-forming foods from a plant-based diet can help you manage inflammation and reduce stress. Dark green whole plant-based foods are alkaline-forming. Plant-based proteins like hemp, nuts, and seeds are more alkaline-forming than meat and dairy. Plant-based proteins are also more nutrient dense, containing fiber and phytonutrients in addition to protein, and often easier to digest than animal proteins.
3. Better for the environment
It takes more water, energy and fuel to produce animal products, so switching to plant-based proteins saves water, reduces carbon emissions, and protects arable land—all of which have a huge environmental impact.
4. Satisfy your protein needs
The most lingering myth about plant-based proteins is that you cannot build muscle or meet your protein needs with an exclusive plant-based diet. There are several complete plant-based protein sources that contain all essential amino acids. By eating a varied diet, with multiple types of proteins will ensure your body has enough amino acids (the building blocks of protein in your body).
These are my eight favorite plant-based proteins that I tend to eat daily:
1. Premium plant-based protein powder
Plant-based, multisource protein powders are a convenient way to add high-quality protein to your day. Making a smoothie with Vega Sport Performance Protein after your workout will provide you with 25 grams of complete protein from a multisource plant-based blend of pea, SaviSeed, sprouted whole grain brown rice, and alfalfa protein. It also has 5,000mg of each BCAAs and glutamine per serving, crucial post-workout amino acids your body needs to build muscle and reduce recovery time.
2. Hemp seed
Though tiny, hemp seeds are a source of complete protein—containing all 10 essential amino acids. With a creamy, nutty taste, these seeds are also high in plant-based Omega-3s, an essential fatty acid that helps your body to manage inflammation. I add hemp seeds to most salads, and smoothies I make.
3. Chia seeds
Like hemp seeds, chia seeds are an excellent source of Omega-3s. Plus they are rich in fiber and protein, and because they absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, can be very satiating. A satisfying snack is chia pudding. Mix chia seeds in non-dairy milk and let sit for 15 minutes. Add in any minimally processed sweetener, cinnamon and fresh berries for a healthier take on tapioca pudding.
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, and a host of others) offer high amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Add whole raw nuts to your smoothie, or scoop a tablespoon of nut butter. Snack on trail mix made with sprouted nuts and unsweetened dry fruit. Nuts make a great snack on-the-go.
This nutrient dense pseudograin is actually a seed and a complete protein. You can swap in quinoa for any other whole grain in recipes. It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook, and is a great side dish, base of a grain salad, or addition to smoothies.
Beans of all types—from black to white to kidney to mung to chickpeas—are an excellent source of protein, fiber and B vitamins. For convenience, I buy beans in BPA-free cans that can been cooked with kombu, a seaweed that naturally makes beans more easily digestible.
7. Brown Rice
On its own, brown rice is not a complete protein, but becomes a complete protein when combined with beans or seeds. I soak my brown rice for 8 to 10 hours before cooking it, whenever possible.
8. Sea Vegetables
Most vegetables contain protein—broccoli and kale too!—but many people are surprised to learn that sea vegetables (including seaweed, kelp, and other algaes) have been a protein staple of many coastal civilizations for thousands of years. Not only do they have protein, but they also contain essential minerals including iodine, calcium and electrolytes. Use sheets of nori for wrapping brown rice and vegetables, sushi-style, or shred and use as topping on your favorite salad or noodle dish.
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A version of this article originally appeared at: Livestrong.com
Photo credit: Flickr/Jennifer
Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete, a two- time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called VEGA, and the best-selling author of the Thrive book series. He is also the developer of the acclaimed ZoN Thrive Fitness program and the creator of Thrive Foods Direct national meal delivery service. He also just launched Thrive Forward, an online video series on wellness.
Recognized as the world’s foremost authorities on plant-based performance nutrition, Brendan works with NFL, MLB, NHL, UFC, PGA, Tour De France, and Olympic athletes and is a guest lecturer at Cornell University, where he presents an eCornell module entitled “The Plant-Based Diet and Elite Athleticism.”