Both seeds and leafy greens are two great sources of alkaline protein to choose when it comes to implementing protein sources into your diet, especially if you’re looking to go a more natural route while eating plant-based. While they’re certainly not the only sources, they are higher in net nutrition (overall nutrients) than some other sources when you look at the value each of these food groups has and how much they’re processed.
The Benefits of Seeds and Greens for Your Health
Seeds, for one, have more protein and more minerals than nuts, along with less saturated fat. Seeds are also higher in most amino acids, and many are complete proteins and sources of omega 3 fatty acids, with walnuts being the only nut-rich in omega 3’s. Greens are also packed with protein! Kale and spinach boast 5 grams in one cup, while broccoli, asparagus, and arugula all have 5 grams per 1 1/2 cup serving.
Purslane (a lesser known green) is also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, and romaine lettuce even has some too. Greens also counteract the acidic foods we eat and the acidic components in our bodies from stress and toxins we take in from the environment and our food. They’re the most alkaline source of nutrition we can eat, which helps ensure critical minerals (like calcium and magnesium) aren’t leached from our bones from over-acidity.
One reason many people who eat a diet rich in animal products suffer inflammation is because these proteins are so acidic, they can leach minerals from the bones and also lead to problems in other areas of their health such as osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, not to mention high blood pressure and weight gain.
What About Other Proteins?
Of course, these are not the only sources of protein you can obtain in a plant-based diet. There are tons of options and all foods have protein in them, but seeds and greens do have a leg up on some others. For instance, some plant-based proteins that are also good sources of easily accessible protein include tempeh, tofu, and seitan, which some people don’t tolerate as well as others. As far as grains, beans, and legumes are concerned, these are all remarkable foods for your heart but aren’t always tolerated well in high doses (and some people don’t tolerate them at all).
While it’s definitely not advisable to limit your diet to seeds and greens alone, eating them every day is a great choice to optimize your protein stores and your overall health. Plus, they make such easy additions to almost any meal! Here are 5 seeds that are packed with nutrition and some ideas for pairing them with greens during your meals:
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best, most alkaline sources of nutrition you can eat. They’re incredibly high in iron and magnesium, and contain a larger amount of protein than chia or flax per ounce, boasting a total of 5 grams per ounce. They’re also rich in B vitamins and are the only seed to actually have an alkalizing effect on the body, though many others are considered alkaline in nature. This means pumpkin seeds help counteract acidity and at the same time, provide the support your body needs to feel its best.
They even contain high amounts of anxiety-relieving tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which helps improve serotonin levels. Pumpkin seeds pair especially well with most any green, whether on a salad, in a smoothie, in a soup, or you can make any entree like a saute with pumpkin seeds mixed into the dish.
Try them in JumBowl Salad, The Glow Bowl, or Veggie Quinoa Bowl. Or, try this smoothie idea: Blend one cup of either fresh organic spinach or kale, with 1/2 cup berries, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (preferably raw and organic) and a little ice to thicken. You can also add in superfoods or other seeds if you wish. This will give you around 10 grams of protein without any other ingredients added. To add more, add oats, vegan protein powder, or any of the seeds below.
2. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are known as one of the top sources of complete vegan protein. They’re also rich in iron, chlorophyll, magnesium, Vitamin E, and B vitamins. Pairing them with leafy greens of any kind is a fantastic idea because hemp has a nutty, mild flavor that can either be used as a topping for greens or even pureed into a dressing or sauce thanks to its creamy nature. Hemp seeds are also affordable per serving and lend 13 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons – something you can guarantee that no animal protein will give you!
Hemp seeds are also the easiest seeds of all to digest and are easily assimilated into your body. For those that don’t tolerate beans, legumes or grains, hemp is a lifesaver thanks to its high amounts of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and iron that are higher than grains, beans, and legumes.
See 5 Creative Ways to Use Hemp Seeds to Replace Dairy (and More), and try these recipes that pair greens and hemp seeds together: Cheezy Kale Salad or Rainbow Salad, or try this salad recipe: Mix 1 cup spinach with 1 cup kale, and a head of romaine lettuce. Break apart with your hands to shred into smaller pieces. Then squeeze the juice of one lemon on top. “Massage” the greens with your hands to break down the fibers and break them up into smaller bits.
Top with some roasted veggies like sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, etc. Also add any other veggies like broccoli or asparagus, or fruits like tomatoes and cucumbers. Then, top with 3 tablespoons hemp seeds, add a little pink sea salt and some black pepper. Top it off with either some mustard or your favorite condiment, give it all a huge stir, and devour for a protein-rich, satisfying meal that provides a wealth of nutrition.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another complete protein that is great for keeping you full and also ensuring you get plenty of iron and omega 3 fatty acids as well. You have to eat a lot more chia seeds than other seeds to obtain as much protein since they only contain around 5 grams per two tablespoons, but they are still excellent sources to add and include in your diet. One reason being that chia seeds provide both calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium in incredibly in high amounts and also high amounts of water and fiber that help your body absorb these nutrients much easier.
Some animal foods may cause an acidic overload that causes the kidneys to excrete these minerals via the urine, so chia is a great source of nutrition to help ensure those minerals stay in the body. Then there’s the blood sugar-stabilizing effects that chia has; it helps keep blood glucose levels stable thanks to soluble fiber whereas animal foods have been shown to raise blood sugar and increase the risks of diabetes. The best part about chia? It’s tasteless, so just toss it in anywhere! A whole bag of chia seeds costs about $10 and will last you well around a month or more if you use 2 tablespoons a day.
Here are some great ideas to get you started if you’re just downright tired of (or tired of hearing about) chia pudding: Green Superfood Detox Smoothie, SuperWeed Green Smoothie, Superfood Green Smoothie, or try this entree idea: Cook up Simple Roasted Root Veggies and add some Sauteed Kale (or spinach) to the mix. Toss together in a huge bowl over wild rice or quinoa, and mix in two tablespoons of chia seeds with your choice condiments. Let it all sit for a few and it will thicken up nicely for a hearty dinner. You can also just stir chia into soups as a natural thickener, whether you use the seeds whole or ground up into a meal like flax meal.
4. Sunflower Seeds
Per two tablespoons, these tasty seeds provide 6 grams of protein and 7 percent of your daily iron requirements. They also contain a large amount of magnesium and fiber. Sunflower seeds are also pretty easy to digest and much less allergenic than nuts, soy, or wheat. Sunflower seed butter even has a similar taste to peanut butter for those that are allergic or intolerable to peanut butter. If you purchase raw, organic sunflower seeds, they’ll even have a slight greenish hue, indicating their higher chlorophyll content that’s lost when they’re more processed.
You can also buy sunflower seeds (and others) sprouted, which some people find easier to digest and some people may find the plain ones easier to assimilate, so see what works for you. Sunflower seeds pair fantastic with greens of any kind. Top a smoothie with them, toss them in a salad, make a salad dressing with them, stuff them in a wrap, spread some sunflower seed butter on a sandwich with some greens, or just thin the butter out with some almond milk or water and spices to make a quick dressing or sauce.
Try making Freekah Kale Salad, Raw Vegan Caesar Dressing, Red Lentil Burgers with Kale Pesto, Squash Parsley Dip, or Jazzy-liciocus Kale. You can also make sunflower seed milk and use in your next green smoothie! Try this smoothie recipe for a tasty alternative to a peanut butter and jelly smoothie: Add two cups of greens to your blender, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 cup blackberries or blueberries, 1/2 cup ice, and 1 cup almond milk. Add 1-2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter or seeds an blend until thick and creamy.
5. Sesame Seeds
Tahini is a popular condiment made from the almighty sesame seed. It’s packed with amino acids and with calcium, not to mention iron, manganese, copper and magnesium. These seeds can be used anywhere you would use other seeds and can easily be creamed into tahini, or just mixed with another type of seed (like hemp) and some liquid and seasoning to make a dressing or sauce. Like other seeds, they provide a large amount of zinc, which boosts your immune system health and their fiber will help keep you full. Per 1/4 cup, these seeds provide 35 percent of your daily calcium needs, which is actually more than a serving of milk or yogurt. You can purchase raw tahini ( unheated tahini that is a dream for salads and roasted veggies) or you can use the seeds to put in whatever you want.
Here are some of our favorite recipes: Miso Kale BOWL-ed Over, Sauteed Kale and Carrot with Tahini Sauce, Super Healthy Kale Salad with Creamy Ginger Tahini Dressing or try this recipe: Mix 1 head of organic romaine lettuce with as many raw veggies as you can find, 1 cup raw spinach or kale, and toss altogether in a huge bowl. Add 2 tablespoons raw tahini (or sesame seeds), the juice from one lemon, a teaspoon or two of mustard, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Add black pepper and any herbs you like. Mix altogether and keep tossing until it gets nice and thick and creamy. Be sure to add plenty of veggies so it’s nice and filling, and so you get plenty of nutrition!
More Protein Tips
Also see our recipes for high protein meals and snacks, how to get more protein in your diet, and see if you’re getting enough. Let us know if you have a favorite way to use any of these seeds and leafy greens. We’d love to hear them!
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