Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, or carnivore, protein is a necessary dietary staple. In the body, amino acids, the building blocks of life, are made by ribosomes located in the endoplasmic reticulum of cells. These proteins then form tissues, organs, organ systems, and make up the entire human body.
Proteins also play a key role as enzymes, catalyzing or speeding up chemical reactions by reducing the amount of activation energy a given reaction requires. But, humans can only create 10 of the 20 essential amino acids, and amino acids are not stored like fat and starch in the body, which is why consuming protein is so important.
The RDA generously recommends that we take in “0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram that we weigh (or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh).” Adjusted for plant protein digestion and the amino acid content in plants, that recommendation translates to a level of “0.9 gram of protein per kilogram body weight (0.41 grams per pound),” or 10-12 percent of calories coming from protein for vegans.
To acquire this 10 percent, note that not all dietary sources of protein are created equal. Clean proteins are those with minimal additives and that have been sustainably harvested and grown. They can also be simple sources that are free of pesticides and are not manufactured by some enigmatic company. Choosing the right proteins for ingestion is paramount to maintaining a healthy diet, so from Green Monster to Green Monster, we give you a list of the top seven (the lucky number in Japan) cleanest sources of protein:
One cup of cooked spinach amounts to five grams of protein and 13 grams per 100 calories. In the protein and green department, spinach evidently delivers. Kale, the ubiquitous green of the day, is also a great source of protein with about 3 grams of protein per cup. As long as you thoroughly wash your green of choice and choose organic, greens are a clean protein to include in your daily diet.
One cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein. A cup of chickpeas has 15. You can’t really go wrong with beans and legumes. They are a steady fallback when it comes to protein; they’ll always be there for you. Make your own beans or buy unsalted ones in BPA-free cans, and you’ve got yourself a clean and lovely source of protein.
A serving of shelled hempseeds amounts to 10 grams of protein. That’s three measly tablespoons! Put hempseeds on top of a bowl of berries, a salad, or even in a soup. Hempseeds are a nutty, clean source of protein. Give them a go!
Hopefully you’re not eating mushy peas from a can, but if you are, you’re getting a dose of protein! Get yourself a cup of fresh ones, and I promise you that they’ll taste better, so getting those eight grams of protein won’t feel like torture. Canned peas are not an ideal way to consume these green little spheres, but if you have to eat them, at least look for a organic, BPA-free can of them.
One 1/4 cup serving of almonds contains eight grams of protein. What better way to get a healthy dose of protein then with a handful of nuts? Almonds and other nuts contain a good amount of protein, just look for raw ones that haven’t been sprayed with too many pesticides.
Some people adore them; some people loathe them, but plant-based, alternative milks contain a significant amount of protein. For instance, soy milk contains seven grams of protein in a single cup. If you aren’t fond of chewing, which I don’t know many people you are, go ahead a down a couple cups of non-dairy milk, and you’ll get your protein requirements easy. If you make said milk yourself or look for a boxed one without additives, then it can be classified as a clean source of protein.
One cup of tempeh packs in a whopping 31 grams of protein. It may look like a weird slab of grains and white stuff, but it will satisfy your amino acid requirements for the day. To make sure your tempeh is clean, buy organic tempeh with minimal additives, or make it yourself.
Don’t just default to eating meat for your protein source. Instead, choose one of these clean and simple alternatives, and you will be healthier for it.
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Lead image source: 20-Minute Chickpea and Spinach Curry