Lean Mean Plant Protein and the Benefits
When we think about protein sources, we often think of meat. It makes sense: protein is what helps us build muscle, the "meat on our bones." However, there is another category of high protein foods found in certain plant-based sources. Plant proteins such as beans, peas, lentils, and soy have many beneficial qualities that can help boost your health.
What are the Benefits of Plant Protein?
- Fiber - Unlike their animal protein counter parts, plants are unique because they contain protein to help build and maintain muscle, and they also contain dietary fiber. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels as well as keeps our digestive tracts regular and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- Lower in saturated fat - Research has linked plant-based diets with lower risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer because they are lower in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy fats, especially when we compared to products such as beef, pork, processed deli meats, cheeses, and creams. Animal products tend to have higher amounts of saturated fat that lead to higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and risk of disease such as the ones mentioned above.
- Affordable - Many people believe healthy eating is expensive. However, plant protein products generally cost less than animal protein products. For example, boneless chicken breasts cost an average of $3.27 per pound nationwide, while tofu sits around $2 to $2.50 per pound, and dried beans clock in around $1.39 per pound. Boneless pork averages $3.90 per pound, ground beef is at $3.27 and choice steak costs about $6.86 per pound.
What are Different Sources of Plant Protein?
- Beans, Peas, & Lentils: Also known as "legumes," these foods are often considered a part of the vegetable and protein food groups because of their variety of nutritional benefits. In addition to protein they are rich in fiber, potassium, and even calcium. Beans, peas, and lentils are also beneficial to heart health. In fact, eating just ½ cup serving per day of beans can lower the risk of a heart attack by 38%.
- Soy: While it does contain more fat than other sources of plant protein, the fats in soy are unsaturated fats and are considered heart-healthy fats. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, soy is high in calcium and iron. Eating just 20 grams of soy protein each day can help to lower cholesterol. That's about 6 ounces of tofu, 2 and a half cups of soy milk, or about one quarter of a cup of roasted soy beans.
- Nuts: Just like soy, nuts contain more fat than beans and other legumes, but these are also healthy, unsaturated fats. Different types of nuts have different nutritional contents. Nuts can keep you feeling full and promote weight loss.
Incorporating plant protein into one's diet can have health benefits and can help prevent some diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Want to learn more about this topic? Here are some helpful resources.
Plant Protein Handout
Try to eat meatless one day this week. If this is something you already do, try one new meatless recipe with a plant protein.
Coconut Curry Lentils
One Pot Bean and Tomato Pasta
- "4 Ways Vegetarian Living Can Help Your Wallet." U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 5 June 2014, https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2014/06/05/4-ways-vegetarian-living-can-help-your-wallethttps://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2014/06/05/4-ways-vegetarian-living-can-help-your-wallet.
- "Animal Protein Vs Plant Protein: Do We Have to Choose?" American Council on Science and Health, 24 Aug. 2016, www.acsh.org/news/2016/08/24/animal-protein-vs-plant-protein-do-we-have-to-choose.
- "Fiber." The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health, 6 June 2018, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/.
- "The Scoop on Soy." UnlockFood.ca, 10 Jan. 2018, www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Diets/The-Scoop-on-Soy.aspx.