If you’re ever wanted to add more protein to your diet, you’re not alone. It’s one of the biggest topics in the health food world since we all want to be lean, strong and healthy. Despite what you may have heard, we certainly don’t need the steak or even a slab of tofu to give us enough protein. Believe it or not, simple whole foods can give you all the protein that you need. A plant-based diet isn’t all processed veggie burgers and tofu-based or tempeh-based dishes. Though those are options some people enjoy to get their protein, they aren’t the only choices. (See our 5 Soy-Free Vegan Foods That Have More Protein Than Beef as proof!)
If you’re trying to eat a clean diet, you might shy away from a plant-based lifestyle out of fear that you won’t be able to get quality proteins in your diet without animal products. But we have good news! Eating plant-based isn’t just about not eating animals; it’s about emphasizing whole-food based choices versus processed options whenever possible. And for those that do like the store bought protein options, then more power to ya! But for those that want a clean, lean option free of preservatives that are more natural, you’ll appreciate these five choices below that your body can use just as effectively.
If these foods are new to you, no worries. We’ve got information about them, how to use them and the benefits you’ll experience from adding more of them to your diet.
5 Clean, Lean Protein Foods To Eat More Of
- Spirulina- a deep sea blue green superfood algae boosting more protein than beef
- Chia seeds- nature’s crunchiest source of omega 3 fatty acids
- Hemp seeds– a protein-packed powerhouse of fiber, iron, and complete amino acids
- Greens- rich in amino acids, iron, and magnesium to keep your body energized and metabolism running well
- Oats (or quinoa if you don’t eat oats)– full of protein, fiber, magnesium, iron and more
Why these specific five foods, you ask? The five foods above are some (but not all) of the most filling, most nutritious foods you can eat that offer such a variety of not just proteins, but also iron, potassium and they even all have fiber, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. They’re also easy to work into your diet in a variety of ways and as you’ll see, they also come with some unique nutritional benefits.
Here Are Just a Handful of Ways to Use Them:
Make a smoothie using non-dairy milk, 2 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, 2 cups leafy greens, 1 tbsp. of spirulina, and optionally, 1/4 cup rolled oats to make it thicker. Add some berries or 1/4 a frozen banana, maybe some ice and superfoods. Blend it up and you’ve just downed over 25 grams of protein – no joke! If you’re not into protein powders, this is the way to go!
Fun Fact: Did you know that spirulina contains 18 amino acids including all the essential 8 amino acids? It also is the highest protein source on earth by weight among all foods, with a 90 percent digestibility rate, and is one of the most potent detoxifying foods you can eat. We just love the really beautiful green color!
Another great option is to make a power oat (or quinoa) bowl! Add 1/2 cup oats (or quinoa) to a bowl or glass jar, stir in 2 tbsp. hemp seeds, 2 tbsp. chia seeds, and whatever other ingredients you enjoy in your oatmeal such as non-dairy milk, berries, superfoods, nuts, seeds, etc. Many of these other ingredients will also contain protein, which can pump the protein content up even higher. Give this all a good stir, soak it overnight, or alternately, cook your oats on the stove top and stir in the other ingredients after cooking. If you just use the oats, chia, and hemp, you’ll still be eating 15 grams of protein before adding any other ingredients.
Fun Fact: Hemp and chia seed are two of the best complete protein sources to eat. They also boost 45 percent or more of your daily iron content in just one serving and are also a great source of magnesium, offering almost half your entire day’s worth in just one tablespoon. Adding both of them together is a great way to keep you energized and keep your body’s protein and healthy fat stores up to promote a healthy metabolism. Also see 5 Creative Ways to Use Hemp Seeds to Replace Dairy (and More!).
Protein Powered Salad:
At lunch or dinner, make a huge salad with some leafy greens, and add 2-3 tbsp. hemp seeds on top. Add in whatever veggies you like, such as broccoli (also high in protein), fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and even berries or peppers. Make a clean, lean salad dressing (try these great recipes) and add a tbsp. chia seeds to the dressing to make it even thicker and add more protein. Then top your salad with 1/4 cup some quinoa to provide more amino acids, protein, fiber, and calcium plus magnesium and perhaps even some avocado for even more delicious nutrition! This salad will boost you around 20 grams of protein and will keep you full all the way to dinner!
Fun Fact: Greens like kale and spinach are some of the densest sources of protein and chlorophyll you can consume from the produce department. Don’t just overlook these as simple salad greens! Greens are chock-full of amino acids and are one of the best foods to eat to fuel lean, healthy muscles. They also keep the body cleansed and prevent inflammation unlike animal-based proteins.
Green Monster Superfood Protein Bites
Try these tasty green orbs out the next time you want a power-packed snack!
To make: In a food processor, puree 1/4 cup almond butter with 1/2 cup oats, and 1/4 cup hemp seeds. Add 2 tbsp. chia seeds, 2 tbsp. spirulina (trust us!), 1/2 cup dates, figs, or raisins, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, and process until you get a delicious (bright green!) dough. Roll into 1 inch bite-sized balls, refrigerate for 20 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes to harden, remove and serve. You can also add other fun ingredients like goji berries, superfood powder or spices like cinnamon and ginger. These protein bites are great to enjoy pre or post workout and also keep you satisfied and energized for hours on end! Depending on how many you eat, the protein content will differ, but each bite will at least lend 5-8 grams of protein if you use the ingredients above.
Fun Fact: Plant-based proteins like oats, spirulina, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and leafy greens can help you stay energized, full, and they also stimulate the body’s natural detoxifcation process to remove harmful acids that can come from eating animal proteins. They also cleanse the body naturally, and even help add texture and flavor to your foods.
Benefits of Adding These 5 Foods To Your Day
Spirulina, hemp, chia, oats/quinoa, greens all contain unique properties that make them worthy of adding to your routine. For instance, spirulina is packed with iodine, which your thyroid needs to function properly and it also helps curb your natural cravings for salt the way nature intended. Hemp and chia seeds’ fiber are denser than any grain or bean per tablespoon, and they’re also much easier to digest. Oats and quinoa are both good sources of iron, along with zinc and potassium and finally, greens provide fewer calories with more protein than any animal source, while also providing more Vitamin A, C and K to your meal at the same time.
Give these five foods a shot and let us know how you enjoy them. See all of our high protein recipes for even more ideas on how to use a variety of plant-based proteins.
Lead Image Source: Andrea Kambanis/Flickr