Diet & Nutrition

7 Simple Ways to Add More Plant-Based Protein to Your Diet

An omnivore’s guide to making tasty and nutritious vegetarian dishes

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Disclaimer: the information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of nutrition advice from a Registered Dietitian or other healthcare provider. Please speak to your primary healthcare provider if you have any health-related questions or concerns before making changes to your diet.

Veganuary aside, there’s been a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about the benefits of following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Generally, these diets tend to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat than the standard North American diet (but not necessarily), which can be beneficial for your health.

The good news is that you don’t have to swear off meat entirely to reap the benefits of including more plant-based protein in your diet.

Some studies suggest that simply adding more plant-based protein to your diet can help lower high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease (1,2,3).

What is a plant-based protein?

Both plant and animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs, however, the proportion of amino acids in plant-based proteins is suboptimal. What this means is that while plant proteins do contain all of the essential amino acids, they don’t contain the proper amounts of each amino acid to meet our protein needs when consumed on their own.

For this reason, plant-based proteins are often considered ‘incomplete’ (with the exception of soy-based proteins.) However, when you consume a variety of plant-based proteins throughout the day, it leads to amino acid complementarity, meaning that all essential amino acids are present in your diet in the right amounts (4).

Some examples of plant-based proteins include legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts and seeds, soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame, textured vegetable protein), and high-protein grains (buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth), and any protein from fruits and vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, avocado).

7 ways include more plant-based protein into your diet

Ready to start eating more plant-based protein? Here are 7 ways to add more plant-based protein into your diet.

1. Add Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) to pasta sauces, soups, and chili

TVP is a dehydrated form of soy protein that is inexpensive, high in protein, and extremely versatile. When used in soups and sauces, it has a similar texture to ground beef, making it the perfect plant-based substitute.

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2. Add silken tofu to smoothies, puddings, and creamy sauces

Tofu is another soy protein that’s inexpensive and high in protein. Tofu comes in many varieties; from extra firm (perfect for frying), to soft, or silken, varieties. On its own, silken tofu is very bland, meaning that it can be easily added to sauces, smoothies, and puddings for extra protein and body without being detected.

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3. Try using beans in baking

Beans are an incredibly cheap plant-based protein that is high in fibre and other important nutrients. Beans have a fairly mild flavor and are a great ingredient to bake with, especially if you love dense and decadent desserts. There are so many great recipes out there for black bean brownies, chickpea cookie dough, and lentil muffins. What a delicious way to add protein and fibre to your diet!

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4. Go for high protein grains

I’m not knocking rice but if you want to add more plant-based protein to your diet, try substituting it for some higher protein whole grains. Grains like amaranth and teff provide over 9 grams of protein per cup (cooked), and just ½ cup of steel-cut oats (uncooked) provides 10g of protein.

Even though protein from grains is less digestible, adding them can still help you bump up the protein and fibre content of your meals and compliment the other plant-based proteins in your diet.

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5. Add beans to homemade dips, spreads, and salsas

Store-bought hummus is tasty and all, but if you’re looking for a higher protein option then try whipping up dips and spreads using canned beans instead. Likewise, legumes, like black beans, are the perfect addition to homemade salsas.

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6. Go all-out with the salad toppings

Salad toppings are a great way to add flavor, crunch, and additional protein to your diet. Throw in some pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds, walnuts, or almonds for healthy fats and plant-based protein. Sprinkle on nutritional yeast for protein and B vitamins or roasted chickpeas for fibre and folate.

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7. Try high protein pasta

If you are looking for a quick and easy high protein dish, it doesn’t get much easier than protein pasta. You can usually find a variety of pasta and spaghetti made with beans, chickpeas, lentils, and edamame in the health food section of your local grocery store.

Even though they are pricier than your average box of pasta, these products usually have over 20g of protein per serving!

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In conclusion

There you have it, seven easy and delicious ways to add more plant-based protein to your diet. These are just a handful of ideas to help spark your creativity in the kitchen. The key is to have fun with it and experiment with new recipes that are outside of your comfort zone!

References

  1. Appel LJ, Sacks FM, Carey VJ, Obarzanek E, Swain JF, Miller ER 3rd, Conlin PR, Erlinger TP, Rosner BA, Laranjo NM, Charleston J, McCarron P, Bishop LM; OmniHeart Collaborative Research Group. Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial. JAMA. 2005 Nov 16;294(19):2455–64. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.19.2455. PMID: 16287956.
  2. Swain JF, McCarron PB, Hamilton EF, Sacks FM, Appel LJ. Characteristics of the diet patterns tested in the optimal macronutrient intake trial to prevent heart disease (OmniHeart): options for a heart-healthy diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Feb;108(2):257–65. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.10.040. PMID: 18237574; PMCID: PMC3236092.
  3. Chiavaroli L, Nishi SK, Khan TA, et al. Portfolio Dietary Pattern and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Trials. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018;61(1):43–53. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.004
  4. Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(12):1970–1980. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025

Foodie and freelancer with a passion for running in circles (400m circles, to be exact.)

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