Amidst the perpetual buzz about meat or no meat, which kind of meat, vegetarian or vegan – there is a simple truth: humans need protein to be live. Protein is considered the building block of bone, connective tissue, cartilage, blood and skin. It also plays a vital role in building muscle mass and making tissue repairs, producing enzymes and hormones and so on.
We also know that the healthiest humans typically consume less saturated fats than their unhealthy counterparts. Thus, regardless of “label-able” dietary preferences, it’s in all of our best interest to balance our diets with non-meat, protein-rich foods.
Best Non-Meat Foods That Are High in Protein
Here are some of the best, non-meat foods that pack a powerful protein punch.
Crack Those Eggs. Several years ago, eggs got a bad reputation for being high in bad cholesterol. That’s because grain-fed chickens that are cooped up in pens do tend to produce nutrient-deficient eggs that have higher LDL cholesterol levels. Is that so hard to imagine?
If you raise your own chickens, or purchase your eggs from farmers who give their chickens plenty of organic feed and room to forage for themselves, the eggs’ nutrient content is significantly elevated so you don’t have to worry so much about unhealthy cholesterol. Read, Benefits of Farm Fresh Eggs, to learn more.
Learn to love legumes. Oh, yes, you knew this one was coming. Anyone who’s never gone anywhere near a vegetarian entree still seems to absorb the news that legumes – aka beans – are loaded with protein – and they’re right. Beans – particularly adzuki, black, kidney and pinto – are full of both protein and fiber. In fact, depending on the beans you eat, 1 cup of beans can have about the same amount of protein as one cup of cooked chicken – no joke. They’re good for your calorie count, your heart and your digestive tract. Put them in soups, toss them with salads, puree them in “cream of whatever soups.” Beans are extremely versatile, and since they dry and store well they’re a year-round favorite.
Eat your almonds raw or roasted. There are lots of foods that are considered “world’s healthiest” out there – but almonds are pretty neat. For a small little seed, they provide a powerful nutritional boost – including high levels of biotin, vitamin E, manganese, copper, B2 and more. They’re also full of protein. Raw is best, soaked-and-sprouted can up the protein value, and roasted are still pretty health (just watch the salt content on those).
Spirulina from the sea. You’ll have to look a little harder to find spirulina because it’s not on the produce aisle (usually). Most likely, you’ll find spirulina in the supplement section where they sell powders to add to your smoothies or juice. It’s also a common ingredient in high-quality green powders. Spirulina really is a superfood. It’s a type of blue-green algae and 62% of its makeup is amino acids (aka building blocks of proteins). It also seems to have some pretty positive effects on the immune system. You can add it to juice in the morning, sprinkle it into your smoothie combo, etc. Because spirulina is a supplement, you should always talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet.
Add quinoa to your grocery list. There are three reasons why we love quinoa: it’s delicious, it’s full of protein and it’s gluten-free. It’s also versatile (oops! There’s #4). You can cook it like rice, mix it up with other ingredients to make a salad, add it to soup, mix it with egg (See #1) and other stuff and fry it up in patty form, etc. etc. Some more bonus facts about quinoa? It contains powerful antioxidants and is a healthy source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
All those greeny, green greens. People mistakenly believe that plants are devoid of protein. Hello?!? Every single one of their cell walls contain protein. Of all the plants out there, rich, green vegetables and greens seem to have some of the highest protein levels. Specifically, broccoli, spinach, kale, chard, and asparagus rank up there towards the top. Incorporate these organic veggies (throw in some beans and/or eggs for extra measure) and you’re looking at some seriously non-mean, protein-rich eatin’.
Looking for healthy sources for organic, protein-rich foods for you and your family? Check out the goods here at Golden Gate Organics. You can put them in your virtual cart and we’ll deliver them to your brick-and-mortar door.