Tryin’ to get swole while lowering your cholesterol? Well then you are in the right place! Today, we’re going to discuss plant-based proteins.
I see you wanting to hit the back button.
Yes, my main audience is West Texas. Land of beef! Butter! Bacon!
BUT hear me out. Yes, I’m going to talk about tofu and seitan and almonds and chia seeds BUT I wouldn’t be sharing these suggestions if there weren’t so many awesome things that come with eating them! And don’t worry, as always I will be including recipes from trusted blogs that you can find inspiration from - I’ve had soggy tasteless tofu, and that is not fun. But I’ve also had crispy, golden oven-fried tofu nuggets and, if I’m being honest, it’s pretty great.
Are you still with me? Awesome. :)
So we all know that a lot of animal products have cholesterol and saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature), and we all know that these have the potential to increase our risk of heart disease. This risk is increased even more if the animal products are processed (think deli meats, hot dogs, bacon, and so on). Here’s where the plants step in. Since they don’t have a liver, there is absolutely no cholesterol, and all of the ones highlighted today are filled with heart healthy unsaturated fats! (Well, okay, I know soybean oil has some controversy around it, but you’re not getting a lot of that from the actual tofu so...watch out, it’s 2019 and we’re running out of reasons to avoid minimally processed soy products.)
Heart health aside, a 2017 article in the research journal Nutrients attributed a plant-based diet with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and an association with decreased all-cause mortality. It not only helps protect you from developing diseases but it reduces your likelihood of any cause of death. If that’s not a reason to give these a chance I don’t know what is.
For protein comparison purposes, I will be using 1 oz of steak as the control. It contains 7 grams of protein according to the USDA.
Everybody loves almonds! See? Not weird. In addition to having fiber and healthy fats, 1 oz of almonds contains 6 grams of protein. Pretty impressive, huh?
I know raw almonds aren’t always the most appetizing, so here’s a way to have a sweet, crunchy, protein-packed snack without going overboard on the sugar or salt:
If you immediately thought of the ch-ch-ch-chia pet, you are welcome to feel old with me. The seed that used to make our terracotta dogs fluffy is now here to supply us with an abundance of fiber, omega-3 fats, and - you guessed it - protein! 5 grams in a 1 oz serving. Not bad for such a little guy.
But how do you actually cook with it? Well you could soak it in water overnight and add it to your morning smoothie, you could make jelly with it (maybe take a look at our blog about National Peanut Butter day to find a chia seed jelly recipe), or you could make something a little bit more satisfying.
You’ve heard about overnight oats, well get ready for Overnight Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding.
It’s chocolate y’all. It can’t be all bad, right?
I see you eyeing the back-button. You’ve made it this far, you might as well see what’s up with this one, right? So one cup of tofu contains about 20 grams of protein, which is amazing considering 3 oz of beef contain 21 grams.
There are different types of tofu textures available, so I’m giving you two recipes. One for the creamy silken tofu (Chocolate Silken Tofu Pudding), and the other as more of a base recipe using firm tofu (How to Make Crispy Baked Tofu).
Unless you’re already trying to practice a plant-based diet, you probably haven’t heard of this one. It’s actually really cool. It’s gluten. You know, that thing in bread that everyone was afraid of in 2014? This is what it looks like. Basically, if you take wheat flour and remove all of the starch, you’re left with the protein. Don’t worry, it’s not as evil as it sounds, and it actually competes with our steak example in regards to protein content. Brands differ, but 1 oz can be up to 7 grams of protein.
Obviously, if you have an illness or sensitivity that prohibits you from eating gluten, you should definitely not try this.
For the record, I am not trying to convince you to be a vegetarian or a vegan. And I’m not saying that “Vegan Mongolian Beef” is actually going to taste like beef. There’s just a whole world of tastes and textures and nutrients that we miss out on if we don’t stick our neck out and try to cook with these new, admittedly kind of weird, ingredients. Even though it’s unusual, and perhaps uncomfortable, you not only open your mind to new experiences and sensations, but you’re also getting some really awesome nutritional benefits along the way.
I wish you well on your food adventures, sweet reader,
Emily Karibian, RD, LD
WTRC Registered Dietitian
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