Protein is important. Made up of a series of essential amino acids, proteins are the building blocks to healthy skin, muscles, bones, and even brain function. Of the 22 amino acids that our bodies need, we can manufacture all but nine of them. Those nine amino acids have to come from out food. Protein can be found in just about every food known to us, not just meat, fish, eggs and dairy, which aren’t very supportive of our health. Better sources to turn to are leafy greens, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.
As adults, women only need about 46 grams of protein a day and men need about 56 grams. Luckily, our protein needs are easy to meet even when eating salads as a main meal regularly. When enough protein is added to your greens, you’ll find that salads keep you full for hours like any other meal would.
Varying the kinds of protein you add to your salads will keep things interesting so you’re more likely to make a meal of them more often. Here are six foods that will not only boost the protein in your salad, but make them taste fantastic too:
These round legumes are packed full of protein. Just one cup of them provides a whopping 15 grams! Of course, you certainly don’t need this many to get your fill in any given meal. Try roasting some chickpeas and tossing the with your salad as if they are croutons. Another great way to round out your greens is to add a nice dollop of freshly homemade hummus to the top.
These tiny seeds act like a grain in the kitchen and can easily take the place of more well known options like quinoa and millet. Teff is a great source of vitamin C and iron. It also happens to pack a huge punch of protein in each serving too. Simmer teff in water to create a fluffy grain-like consistency and simply stir it into your greens. Or, consider grinding teff into flour and make some pita bread to go alongside your salad.
Everyone is familiar with protein-rich lentil and rice dishes, but have you ever thought of adding them to your salads? You can even eat them raw—just sprout your lentils and add them right to the top of your salad with your favorite spices. Lentils are also delicious with greens when they are slightly toasted with a little bit of maple syrup, agave, or coconut syrup.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds have a little bite that stands out well in salads. You don’t need many of them to pump up the protein in your meal, adding a small handful will add a few grams and fill you up. Try them in JumBowl Salad, Superfood Salad, or roast your pumpkin seeds with some nutmeg and cinnamon before tossing them with your greens to create sweeter flavors. You can also blend your seeds up to create a creamy sauce that makes your meal rich and satisfying.
While most greens have some protein in them, arugula is also a decent source. In fact, each cup of this spicy green provides more than five grams of protein, comparable to spinach. Added to salads as is, arugula will provide your meal with a nice kick mustard-like kick. You can use it to make pesto sauces, or blend it with cashews to make a creamy dressing for your lighter greens.
Mushrooms offer a “meaty” texture that most of the plant foods don’t, so they can be a fun way to turn your meals into salads. Each portabella mushroom boasts about five grams, which is more than enough to make a meal out of. Grill or sauté sliced mushrooms to create a “steak” salad, or try stuffing mini mushrooms as a side dish to your greens.
There you have it! Six tantalizing foods you can use to beef up the protein in your salads and make them taste delicious without a lot of extra work in the kitchen.
Also see our list of plant-based proteins for more options, and tell us what your favorite way to add protein to your salads or meals is!
Lead Image Source: Sprouted Green (Moong) Lentils and Peanut Salad