What is protein?
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, nine of which the body can’t produce on its own, so we need to eat foods that contain these essential amino acids.
Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
How much protein do we need?
This really depends on your activity level as well as fitness goals, for example weight lifters require a lot more protein. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
There is no doubt that meat is an excellent source of protein, along with dairy and eggs as these are complete proteins. But there are also plant-based foods that boast equally high amounts of protein, along with the added benefits of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Here are seven of them:
Hemp seeds – 13 grams in 3 tablespoons
Hemp seeds provide the highest amount of plant-based protein. It is an excellent source of essential fatty acids – omega 3, 6 and GLA, as well as vitamin E.
Hemp seeds have a light and nutty flavour. Sprinkle them on your breakfast, in a salad or smoothie. You can even make hemp milk.
Chia seeds – 4 grams in 2 tablespoons
Apart from protein, these little miracle seeds provide the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also an excellent source of fibre (2 tablespoons delivers 1/3 of the daily recommended amount) and contain minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.These seeds are tasteless and can be added to almost anything - smoothies, yoghurt, cereal, salads, bread and much more. You can even add them to plain water.
Tempeh – 15 grams per ½ cup
As opposed to other soy products, tempeh is made from whole soybeans and retains all the benefits from soybeans.Soybeans contain unique peptides such as defensins, glycinins, conglycinins and lunasin, and all are now known to provide us with health benefits, including benefits in the areas of improved blood pressure regulation, better control of blood sugar levels, and improved immune function. Furthermore, tempeh is fermented which offers a host of health benefits (Read: 6 reasons fermented food should be part of your diet).Tempeh can be eaten on its own, raw or cooked. It is often added into stews, curries and stir-fries.
Spirulina – 8 grams protein in two tablespoons
Spirulina is made up of 65% protein. It contains all essential amino acids, including gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which has anti-inflammatory properties, Due to its high chlorophyll content, it helps remove toxins from the blood and boosts the immune system.
Spirulina has a strong and unique taste. It is best added to smoothies and juices.
Quinoa – 8 grams protein per cup
Quinoa is a powerhouse grain. It contains roughly twice the amount of fibre compared to other grains. Fibre is needed to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. It lowers cholesterol and glucose levels as well as keeps our digestive tract healthy. It also contains high levels of iron, vitamin B2, magnesium and manganese.
Quinoa can be used in many ways. It can be a replacement for rice, used as a salad base, or an ingredient in veggie burgers. It can even be used to make desserts. It is a very versatile grain.
Buckwheat – 6 grams protein per cup
Despite its name, buckwheat is a seed and is gluten-free. It is especially high in the B-complex group of vitamins and minerals, such as copper and magnesium. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells, and magnesium relaxes blood vessels leading to the brain which has been found to have healing effects on depression and headaches. Buckwheat can be eaten in its whole form and used in salads, risotto, porridge, and granola. It can be ground into a flour and used in various baking recipes.
Ezekiel bread – 8 grams per 2 slices
Ezekiel bread is made from six grains – wheat, barley, millet, lentils, soybeans and spelt. The combination of all these grains makes this bread a complete protein. Furthermore the grains are sprouted which breaks down the starches in grains so your body can digest them easily. Sprouting increases vitamin C and B, and also breaks down enzyme inhibitors, so the body can more easily absorb minerals.
The Seventh Day Adventist 6-grain bread (green packaging) is the closest to Ezekiel Bread that's available here in Kuala Lumpur. Every 2 slices of this bread has 7.9g of protein. You can find it at Village Grocer, Cold Storage, Jaya Grocer, Ben's Independent Grocer (BIG) and Hero Supermarket (TTDI).
Enjoy this how you would your regular bread.