Protein and the Plant-Based Lifestyle
The great thing about becoming a part-time vegetarian is that if you are craving a cheeseburger, then have a cheeseburger (but only once a week or month). Maybe you choose to embrace flexitarianism by make a thing of celebrating Veggie Fridays and forgo animal-based proteins all day. Or aim to have animal-based protein at one meal a day instead of two. However you choose to lighten up on the animal protein while increasing the veggie intake, go with whatever works best for you. In this lesson, we’ll discuss leaner protein choices and alternative plant-based protein sources.
Flexitarian-Approved Protein Sources
Now remember that protein is an essential nutrient our bodies require on a daily basis. Protein is the building block of the body, as bones, muscle, skin, and blood are all made of protein. It also makes you feel satiated and can boost metabolism. Animal proteins like beef and pork—think brisket or bacon—tend to be the fattier sources of protein.
High red meat consumption seems to play a role in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health states, “There’s growing evidence that high-protein food choices do play a role in health—and that eating healthy protein sources like fish, chicken, beans, or nuts in place of red meat (including processed red meat) can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death.” Research conducted at the school found that eating even small amounts of red meat on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. They found that replacing red meat with healthy protein sources like poultry, fish, or beans seems to reduce these risks.
The flexitarian approach does not implore a rigid stance to give red meat up altogether, but if you eat these items multiple times a week, eat less or switch to leaner protein sources like fish and poultry. In her book The Flexitarian Diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner recommends anywhere from two to five meatless days per week.
It’s an Easy Switch
There are some amazing options for plant-based proteins. According to Prevention.com, beans (edamame is one of the best sources at 18g protein/cup) and legumes like lentils (9g/half cup serving) are examples offering the highest protein per serving. Nuts like almonds (6g/serving) and nut butters like peanut butter (7g/serving) are good sources, as are grains like quinoa (8g/serving), wild rice (6.5g/serving), brown rice, and oatmeal (both 5g/serving). And chia seeds (6g/serving) and pumpkin seeds (5g/serving) offer protein as well.
Vegetables actually provide small amounts of protein, too. Some of the veggies with higher protein include spinach (3g/half cup cooked serving), corn (2.5g/serving), and broccoli (2g/serving). And remember that lean dairy sources like low-fat yogurt and milk also offer protein. In fact, low-fat, plain Greek yogurt packs 11 grams of protein per serving.
Tomorrow: I look forward to chatting with you about selecting the right carbs.
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