Plant foods that pack a protein punch

Are you worried your meat-free Monday will mean a plunge in protein? Don’t be. There is an abundance of delicious plant foods that deliver a powerful protein punch.

So what exactly is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient that consists of amino acids. Our body cleverly makes some amino acids itself but there are nine ‘essential’ amino acids that we need to get from the food we eat. If a food contains all nine of the ‘essential’ amino acids, like the humble soybean, it is called a complete protein.

Why do we need it?

Protein has been long heralded as the post-exercise recovery must-have but the truth is that proteins play a role in almost every biological process, and their functions vary widely. Eating a diet higher in protein could play an important role in healthy weight management (CSIRO report).

How much do we need?

For most people, a varied and healthy diet will provide enough protein. Having more protein doesn’t mean we store it for later — we simply excrete it.
Men up to the age of 70 are recommended to have at least 64g per day, whereas women should aim for at least 46g. Eating more plant proteins, is good for your health and the planet, especially when you’re eating them instead of meat.

Why not try these 5 sources of plant protein that really pack a punch:
1. Soy beans (canned, one cup = 16.3g protein)
Whether you eat whole soybeans or products made of soybeans like tofu, tempeh or soy milk, you will reap the protein benefits. Remember, when choosing your soy milk, opt for one that is fortified with calcium and B vitamins like So Good™ Soy Milk.
2. Pistachios (30g handful = 6g protein)
A perfect healthy on-the-go snack, just a handful pistachios packs a protein punch and are a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed for energy production. Opt for unsalted pistachios to make most of these nutritious nuts.
3. Peanut butter (1 tablespoon (20g) = 5g protein)
In addition to protein, this versatile spread also provides niacin and magnesium for an energy boost. There are a range of peanut butters to choose from to suit your own tastes and needs, including natural and no added sugar or salt varieties.
4. Peas (a cup cooked = 8g)
Like all legumes, peas are a protein hero. These little balls of health also boast fibre for gut health, vitamin C for immunity and vitamin K, which helps your blood clot.
5. Quinoa (1/2 cup cooked = 3.8g protein)
Quinoa is not only a delicious gluten free grain, it is also a source of all 9 essential amino acids, iron, folate and magnesium. Quinoa is a very versatile grain — try using it in baking or to make into a delicious breakfast pudding.