10 Plant-Based Protein-Rich Foods to Include in Your Diet to Lose Weight
Protein is an essential macronutrient for building and repairing body tissues. Besides that, protein can also help in losing weight. Protein promotes weight loss by boosting your metabolism; reducing your appetite so you eat fewer calories; cutting cravings to stop you from snacking and late night binging; preventing metabolic slowdown; and helping control weight-regulating hormones.
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound). But if you are on a very low-calorie (hypocaloric) diet, you should aim for around 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 30 percent of your daily calories in order to avoid muscle breakdown.
The type of protein you eat may play a role in successful weight loss and in your overall health. The usual go-to protein for the average person comes from animal meat like steaks, chicken, hotdogs, deli meats, and sausages, but many of those come with unwanted calories, preservatives and questionable fats. Below are some vegetables and plant-based foods that not only have high protein content but are packed with nutrients and healthy fats.
1. Green peas
A cooked cup of green peas contains 9 grams of protein. Besides protein, you also get to eat more than 25 percent of your daily recommended intake for fiber, vitamins A, C, K, folate, manganese, and thiamine. Moreover, green peas also have iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
You can buy green peas frozen, dried, or canned. The simplest way to cook peas is to steam, boil, or saute them. Add butter, salt, and your favorite herbs or spices for a boost in flavor and you've got yourself a delicious side dish of buttered green peas. You can also add green peas to soups, salads, stir fries, and pot pies.
2. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds come from the same family as marijuana (Cannabis sativa). But don't worry, it only contains minuscule amounts of THC so it won't give you any high associated with weed.
Hemp seeds contain 10 grams of easily digestible protein per 28-gram serving. Hemp seed is also a good source of magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, selenium, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
To incorporate hemp seeds in your diet, simply add it to your muesli or sprinkle them in smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and salad dressing for added texture. You can also add it to homemade protein bars of roasted mixed nuts and seeds.
3. Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast commercially sold in flakes or powder form. Its yellow color and cheese-like taste make it a perfect substitute for cheese among vegans or those who are lactose intolerant.
A 28-gram serving of nutritional yeast contains 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. There are also fortified nutritional yeast varieties with added minerals that can be a good source of zinc, copper, manganese, and magnesium.
You can add nutritional yeast to your diet as a cheese substitute for mashed potatoes, scrambled tofu, toppings on pasta dishes, and added to popcorn for depth in flavor. You can also sprinkle it into salads and smoothies, stews and soups, and roast or steamed veggies for added creaminess.4. Soy milkSoy milk is a great milk substitute for those who dislike milk, are vegetarians, or suffer from lactose intolerance. A cup of soy milk contains 7 grams of protein and is a good source of vitamin D and calcium for bone health.
When choosing soy milk, go for a fortified variety as this contains added vitamin B12. Also, pick the unsweetened kind with no added sugar if you are watching your sugar intake. You can drink soy milk as is or add it to beverages and dishes that call for milk as an ingredient.
5. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a low-carb vegetable that has a high protein content. A cup of brussels sprouts contains 3 grams of protein, 19 percent of its total calories. It is also an excellent source of fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, folate, calcium, potassium, and vitamins B6, A, K, and C.
There are many ways to cook Brussels sprouts: steaming, boiling, roasting, grilling, frying, and sauteing. Fry the leaves of the brussels sprouts to make crispy chips for snacks. Cut it in half and grill it with olive oil, salt, and your favorite spices for a satisfying side dish. You can also bake it with shredded chicken, cream of mushroom, and cheese for an easy casserole.
Just like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower provides a high amount of protein relative to its calorie content. A cup of this veggie contains 2 grams of protein and only 25 calories. This means 19 percent of its calories are protein. Cauliflower can also be a good source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamins C, K, and B6. It is also high in fiber and antioxidants which can promote healthy aging.
Cauliflower is very versatile and a favorite among those who follow low-carb diets like keto, Atkins, and paleo because it can be used as a substitute for high-carb foods like potato, pasta, and rice.
7. Tofu and tempeh
Tofu and tempeh are processed food made from soybeans. Tofu is made from pressed soybean curds, similar to the process of cheesemaking. Tempeh, on the other hand, is made with the same cooking process but uses fermented mature soybeans. This gives tempeh its unique nutty taste while tofu is typically bland and only absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it's prepared with.
Tofu and tempeh contain 10 to 19 grams of protein per 100 grams. Both also contain iron and calcium, but tempeh has probiotics and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus due to the added fermentation process.
Both can be simply seasoned, fried, and eaten on their own. They can also be added to vegetable dishes or as a meat substitute.
A cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber. That's 25 and 50 percent of the recommended daily intake for protein and fiber respectively. Lentils are also a rich source of minerals like thiamine, folate, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, and pantothenic acid.
Lentils can come in a variety of colors: green, brown, yellow, red, and beluga, each containing a unique composition of phytochemicals and antioxidants. And unlike other legumes, lentils take less time to cook and there is no need to soak them first. They can be used in a variety of dishes including soups, stews, curry, fritters, and warm salads.
Asparagus is one of those underrated vegetables that is packed with nutrients. A cup of asparagus contains 3 grams of protein, which accounts for 27 percent of its total calories. It is also loaded with vitamins and minerals like folate, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and K, and B vitamins.
Asparagus is a great addition to salads or served as an appetizer or side dish. You can grill, bake, boil, steam, or saute asparagus in oil, butter, salt, and pepper for a simple side. Wrap it in bacon and cook it in the oven and serve asparagus spears as appetizer. You can also chop it in bite-size pieces and mix it into your fresh green salad for added crunch.
Oats are a whole-grain cereal that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Each half-cup serving of dried oats contains 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber: 17 and 11 percent of the total calories respectively. It's also an excellent source of minerals such as zinc, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Oats are commonly rolled or crushed into flakes to make oatmeals. Instant oatmeals are made of thinly-rolled or cut oats to allow it to absorb water more quickly. Besides eating oatmeal as porridge or added to veggie burgers, oatmeals can be ground into flour and used for baking whole wheat bread, muesli, and granola.
1. Protein Rich Foods You Should Include In Your Diet
2. How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally
3. Plant power: The 10 veggies with the most protein
4. The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians