So we’ve all heard that protein is good for us, and that we should probably eat more of it. But apart from the obvious, what’s the big song and dance? And why is (literally) everyone talking about it?
According to Jenna Amos, RD, Freshly’s registered dietitian and expert on all things nutrition, protein plays a key role not only in building muscle mass and strength, but also in forming hair, antibodies (think: immune health), enzymes, and organs. In other words: it’s a big name player! And as if that weren’t enough, it may also help keep us fuller for longer after eating, making it easier to maintain or lose weight. But all those plusses beg the question: can you eat more protein without relying solely on classic protein-packed foods like meat, eggs, chicken, and dairy?
The answer: yes! The solution: plants! Thankfully, there are plenty of real, delicious whole foods that naturally contain high-quality protein to help meet your goals. If you’re unsure where to start with plant-based proteins, or are dipping your toes into a flexitarian, reducetarian, or fully plant-based diet, we dug up some of the easiest, simplest, and tastiest options to boost your protein:
Quinoa, aka the “Nutty One”
Remember when no one could say quinoa? (We were one of them, so for the record it's "keen-waa"!) Just because it's hard to say, doesn't mean it's an intimidating ingredient. This overachieving grain actually cooks up just like rice or pasta, and is a great base for grain bowls. A staple in many South American countries, quinoa is now pretty much anywhere and everywhere —and for good reason. With a nutty flavor and fluffy texture, quinoa provides 8g of complete protein per 1 cup cooked (double the protein of cooked white rice!), plus fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins. P.S. You can even get quinoa pasta, so it’s never been easier to switch up your spaghetti.
Lentils: the “Nutritional All-Star”
Hearty textured, earthy flavored, super satisfying—lentils are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world but they get a bad rap, flavorwise. The real magic of lentils is that they soak up (and elevate) any spice, herb, or seasoning you throw at them. They’re so much more than a soup staple, and offer a variety of textures and flavors depending on how you cook them and which type you choose (black, green, yellow, to name a few). In the plant world, think of them as a nutritional all-star, or perhaps a protein MVP. They pack in 18g of the good stuff per 1 cup cooked, plus iron, potassium, and lots of gut-healthy fiber.
Peas, code-named: “Original Gangster”
A common player in frozen mixed vegetables, the humble pea is often overlooked for splashier and trendier veggies. (We’re looking at you: celeriac, sunchoke, cauli, and kelp!) However, peas are actually a standout vegetable when it comes to their protein content, containing 8g of protein per 1 cup, in addition to vitamins A and C. Time to rethink what peas can offer (and all the plant based goodness they have).
Black Beans, aka “Mr Versatility”
Commonly used in Latin American cuisine, versatile black beans can work as both the star of a plant-based meal or as a hearty side. Both canned and dried black beans provide similar nutrition (just watch sodium on canned beans) and can easily be added to salads and burritos for a nutrition boost. Just so you know, one cup of cooked black beans contains 15g of plant-based protein in addition to fiber and iron.
Almond Butter: the “Sweetie”
With a similar consistency to peanut butter, almond butter has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and can be used anywhere you would use peanut butter. Its texture can range from ultra creamy to coarse, but be sure to always look for varieties without any added sugars. Two tablespoons of almond butter provides over 6g of plant-based protein, plus lots of heart-healthy fats.
Whether you are new to plant-based eating and curious if it's a fit for your lifestyle, or you’re a plant-based pro, Freshly’s new line of Purely Plant meals make mealtime decisions easy and delicious. Loaded with plant proteins (like the ones above!), they offer an effortless way to incorporate more plant-based foods into your day.