Protein gets a lot of attention, especially in a plant-based diet where the issue of complete and incomplete protein comes into play, along with protein per amount of weight, which is something else to consider. For instance, we don’t need to combine foods as we once thought to form a complete protein (such as beans and rice). That protein myth died years ago, thankfully when we found out our bodies are capable of using all sources of amino acids to form complete proteins.
Not Just Grams…What to Consider When Measuring Protein
It’s also important to consider that amounts in grams aren’t the only thing that matters when measuring protein in a food. You should also consider how much percentage of total calories protein makes up in a food. For instance, animal foods are high in calories and though they contain a good size amount of protein, per amount of calories, animal proteins (even fish) are higher in cholesterol-forming saturated animal fats, where most of their calories come from. Plant-based foods on the other hand, have fewer calories, a variety of sources of amino acids that form complete proteins in the body, and per weight, their percentage of protein in the amount of total calories is relatively high.
Some plant-based foods are higher in protein percentage than others, however, so making sure to include a variety of plant-based foods in your diet is important for achieving the amount of protein your body needs. Let’s compare some better plant-based options that don’t come with the health risks animal proteins do.
Here are five foods with more protein per ounce than animal products that also come with a higher percentage of protein per amount of calories:
Per ounce, this food is 65 percent protein, the highest amount of protein percentage of all foods. In just 1 teaspoon, you’ll get 4 grams of protein, which is unheard of for all other foods. Spirulina is also a great source of iron, providing 80 percent of your daily needs in just 1 teaspoon, for only a total of 30 calories. You can add this blue green algae to your smoothies to mask the taste, and know you’re getting in a nice dose of B vitamins, protein, iron, and vital trace minerals. Since it’s also alkalizing, spirulina also reduces inflammation, unlike animal foods that contribute to it.
Spinach contains 51 percent protein (about 5 grams per cup for only 30 calories). It’s also a good source of iron and Vitamin C, and offers a delicious taste that is easy to enjoy. This much-loved green is also a great source of folate, an important vitamin for women that contributes to strength, brain function, and reproductive health. Adding a couple cups of spinach to your smoothie, salad, wrap, soup, or any other way, is an easy way to sneak in 10 grams of protein without the need for a powder whatsoever.
Hemp is one of the best, easy-to-use foods that’s rich in all essential amino acids. Per ounce (about 2 tablespoons) has 10 grams of protein, is high in fiber, and most of its calories come from beneficial proteins and omega 3 fatty acids, along with some lesser-known beneficial omega 6 fatty acids that actually lower cholesterol. Unlike animal-based proteins and sources of fat, hemp is very alkalizing to the body and also boosts the mood and energy thanks to high amounts of magnesium. It can also increase metabolism due to it containing 45 percent of your daily iron requirements in just one ounce. You can also use hemp protein, another fantastic way to get this whole food into your diet. We enjoy it in smoothies, raw treats, but you can even stir it into oatmeal and bake with it in place of flour if you like.
Per calorie, broccoli has about 4.5 grams per 30 calories. Broccoli is also packed with amino acids, fiber, Vitamin B6 to improve your mood and is one of the best vegetables linked to fighting cancer. Red meat has repeatedly been linked to cancer, so give the florets more attention in your kitchen.
Almonds, Almond Butter or Peanut Butter
Almonds and almond butter both provide 7 grams per protein in one ounce, along with heart-healthy fats and Vitamin E. They’re also a good source of calcium and provide high doses of beneficial magnesium. Peanut butter is another high source of protein, with 8 grams per two tablespoons of peanut butter. These nut butters are rich in amino acids per ounce and also recommended as a good source of plant-based protein, even by the USDA.
Combine all these foods into a smoothie for a crazy, high-protein meal that your body will love and one that will shock you in how great it tastes! You’ll never know it contains good-for-you veggies!
You can also use other foods high in protein and amino acids such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, maca powder, goji berries, and even oats and quinoa or teff. Remember that plant-based foods have everything we need when we eat a variety of them and be sure to get enough during the day.
What’s your favorite source of plant-based protein?