Making sure you prioritize protein at every meal can be the difference in whether you stick to a weight loss diet and workout plan or give up in the middle of it. If you’re looking to lose weight or tone choosing what protein you’re going to eat should be the number one priority when planning your meals.
An increase in health awareness has led to more manufacturers fortifying their products with this important macronutrient. To meet the needs of their customers they have been adding protein to a variety of products that has never had it before such as various cereals, snack bars, and even in ice cream.
Why has protein become an important macronutrient in weight loss diets and what are great sources of protein from plant based foods?
Let’s take a look at the two biggest benefits to increasing your protein intake.
Feeling Full and Satisfied While Dieting
The premise of dieting requires cutting back on how much you’re eating and what you’re eating. While it’s easy to jump on the next diet a side effect of being on a diet is the feeling of deprivation and hunger. By eating more protein you can increase the feeling of fullness and satisfaction with your meals.
Unlike digesting your typical carb sources digesting protein requires an immense amount of energy for your body to break it down into usable forms of energy. This process of digestion is called the thermic effect of food. Each type of macronutrient comes at a cost to digest, absorb, store, and dispose its nutrients. For carbs this cost is about 6% of the total calories, for fat it’s 2%, and for protein it’s a whopping 25%!
This means that 25% of the calories you eat from protein are automatically burned off during digestion. So if you’re hungry while on your diet increase the amount of protein you eat. Protein will help you feel more satisfied with your meals and you are satiated for a longer period of time because of the time it takes to digest it.
Maintaining Your Lean Muscle Mass
Muscle is the largest mass in our body accounting for at least 30% of a healthy person’s weight and almost entirely made up of protein. Besides muscles other examples of protein containing tissues are your hair, nails, skin, and DNA. Eating a sufficient amount of protein not only helps maintain your lean muscle mass but also to rebuild and repair necessary bodily tissues.
If you’re dieting you probably know that building muscles will help you increase your metabolism and make you look leaner and toned. Adding a pound of muscle on your frame can increase your caloric burn by up to 50 calories per minute. But to increase your amount of muscle requires having a sufficient amount of protein in your diet to build them to get you that lean and toned look. Strength training combined with a proper diet will expedite weight loss and lower your bodyfat making you healthier in the long run.
So what are great sources of protein based on a plant based diet?
Top 5 Vegetable Sources For Protein
This soybean product is one of the most versatile foods on the planet that can take up any flavour profile. Tofu is a plant based food that is a complete protein containing all nine amino acids that our bodies require but cannot produce.
The variety of textures, from soft to extra firm, makes it super easy to cook up and add to a variety of meals. From tofu scrambles for breakfast to creamy smoothies to being grilled on skewers and stir fried in the wok it contains 20-30 grams of protein per cup.
Make sure you opt for organic versions of soy and tofu products to avoid any genetically modified ingredients. Fermented soy (like tempeh) is also easier to digest, and much better for the body.
There are over 120 varieties of this protein containing whole grain seed. Quinoa is another source of a complete protein that is extremely versatile that can be substituted for rice or pasta as a carb source.
It looks a lot like rice and cooks up quickly in a pot or rice cooker. You can make quinoa burgers, quinoa salad bowls, and even add it to soups for an extra boost of protein. It contains 8 grams of protein per cup and can be added into any meal.
If you’re on a budget and still want to eat high protein meals add lentils to your menu. They can be easily prepared by soaking in water overnight before you add them to a variety of recipes. Lentils are another example of an extremely versatile food that can be used in a wide range of recipes. You can add them to soups to make it heartier and they are great food for on the go meals.
At 19 grams of protein per cup they are high in fiber, cost effective, and can be bought in bulk at your local co-op store.
This is a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and not wheat related at all despite its name. It is a superfood that is nutrient packed and mostly consumed in Asian countries but because of its health benefits its continuing to gain popularity in the United States.
For individuals who are allergic to wheat or grains that contain the protein gluten buckwheat is a great substitute. It containing 23 grams of protein per cup and most commonly used to make soba noodles in Asia but the flour itself can be used in protein pancakes or making cookies. Yum!
This a fancy name for delicious shelled pumpkin seeds. High in fiber and rich in antioxidants they don’t need to be refrigerated and make for an excellent snack eaten plain or mixed in with other nuts and dried fruits. They can also be added to cookie recipes, granola recipes, salads, and yogurts.
Pepitas contain 12 grams of protein per cup and is a nutritional powerhouse with amazing health benefits.
Remember if you’re starting a diet or cutting back on calories add protein to every meal. Adding protein will make you feel more satisfied and less deprived so you’re more likely to stick with your diet to reach your health goals.
I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite sources of protein are.