Protein is the backbone of a sound diet. This magical macronutrient is responsible for a vast number of functions in the upkeep of our bodies. It influences several body parts, from hair, nails, bones, and skin to forming muscles and repairing tissue damage. Protein also contributes to immune health, increases the body's ability to burn fat, and lowers the risk of diabetes.
With several people shifting to meat-free or entirely plant-based meals, finding vegetarian and vegan protein options is the need of the hour for a plethora of reasons. For one, plant-based protein has higher fiber content, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, and helps in better weight management.
A recent addition to the vegan wagon is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey who has turned vegan for lunch. He says, "Vegan is on the rise; we've got to adapt."
Try some of these meatless options, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Confession: I am vegetarian and kind of, maybe, secretly biased towards these fantastic meat-free alternatives. But trust me, being a fitness-motivated foodie, I have found the best options for all of our fit fam here at Salsa City Fitness.
A type of blue-green algae, spirulina, can be found in fresh and saltwater. It contains vitamin B, magnesium, potassium and manganese, copper, iron, and protein. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Who doesn't love avocado and toast? Rated amongst high-protein fruits, these creamy delights are full of good fats and fibers. Try it as a quick guack, or combine it with egg whites on toast, and you're all set.
Technically a bean, edamame is popularly used in Asian cuisine; these low-carb immature soybeans can be eaten boiled, steamed, blanched, air-fried, stirfried; these tasty, crunchy pods can be consumed any way you like. Try adding these to this Chinese-style shrimp curry; sub the prawns for extra firm tofu.
A staple in Indian cuisine, lentil soup, lentil rice, lentil curry, and lentil stir fry are all commonly prepared in Indian households. Mixed with herbs, spices, and your fav veggies, lentils make delightful soups, curries, and fall-winter meals. There are plenty of lentil bases recipes available online.
Enjoy 20 Instant Pot Lentil and Bean Recipes from one of my fav Instagram chefs, Archana at Ministry of Curry.
Vegetarian, and versatile, beans can be cooked in several ways, including boiling, frying, and baking, and are used in many traditional dishes throughout the world. Let's talk about these tiny protein-packed foods.
These green beans lower blood sugar and help manage insulin; they are also high in fiber and make delicious meat-protein substitutes. You can make meals like pancakes, tacos, burgers, strudel, and even popsicles. Here are 16 mung bean recipes to try.
Popularly used in Mexican cuisine, this speckled bean can be a good protein source. Try our recipe for Lettuce Wrap Tacos with pinto beans.
Among the best source of meat-free protein, kidney beans are rich in fiber and promote colon health.
Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans
Popularly available in cans, these are easy to flavor and add to a salad. Simply toss with olive oil, herbs, salt, and greens, for a filling protein-packed meal. If you're feeling experimental, try making the Indian recipe "Chana Masala," a spicy curry to enjoy with rice.
Try our recipe for Quinoa Bean Salad, sub the chicken with roasted sweet potato.
A healthy source of fats, fiber, and nutrients, nuts are among the best protein sources for those following a plant-based diet.
These nuts themselves make excellent salad toppers for salads like Lemon and almond roasted salad. All almonds, including bitter almonds, are available in plenty of forms.
Pure almond butter can be a great add-on to a quick vanilla almond shake to keep you fuelled on the go.
Pure Almond Milk is a great substitute for dairy to add to your daily beverage or to bake with. Try these Low Carb Paleo Keto Blueberry Muffins.
Fit Tip: Always use unsweetened almond milk versus sweetened options.
Beneficial for heart health and full of fatty acids, a moderate amount of pistachios are great for loading up on protein.
Known to be higher in fat than other nuts, eaten in moderation, walnuts do offer health benefits. Try our recipe for Waldorf Chicken Salad on the Salsa City Nutrition Page.
Peanuts for fitness
Who doesn't love peanut butter? A rich source of energy, polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids, and amino acids, peanuts, and peanut butter provide protein. Here is a delicious protein-packed peanut butter snack.
Are you looking for a light snack? Or a healthy salad/ breakfast topper? Try Seeds
A source of vitamin E, fatty acids, and protein, sunflower seeds pack protein. Not a muncher? Try sunflower seed butter as a sub for peanut butter.
The Health benefits of flaxseed protein are innumerable. From improving immune function to lowered cholesterol. Add these toppers to your next fruit salad.
Pepita season is almost here; add these rich, toasty seeds to your soup, salad, or baked bars for added protein benefits.
Chia seeds and Basil seeds are proven to reduce nighttime snacking, full of high-quality protein.
While all of the protein sources mentioned above are vegan, certain meat substitutes appeal to tastebuds used to eating animal protein.
An Indonesian or Javanese food made from fermented soybeans is nutrient-dense. While low in carbs and sodium, it is high in protein, iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.
Another vegan meat substitute is not gluten-free; it is dense in starch and made using wheat. However, it has almost the same amount of protein as animal meat.
My personal favorite and the most readily available vegan meat substitute, tofu, is basically soy-milk cheese. Though high in protein and low in calories, tofu is high in fat.
Here are our fav tofu recipes, sub meat with tofu
While dairy isn't vegan, it is a great portion of the protein they consume in a day for vegetarians.
Milk, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Cheese, Cream, Ghee are all great sources of protein.
There is no lacking for the kinds of cheese available in the market today, from String cheese and Mini Babybels for snacking to ricotta and feta for salads and mozzarella for baking and broiling; take your pick. Make sure you take into account the calories you consume when you use cheese as a protein source. Try this omelet with smoked feta.
Another excellent dairy protein, full of probiotics that are good for gut health, you can eat yogurt with oats, chia, fruit, nuts, or even by itself. Make sure to choose any yogurt that is free from natural as well as artificial sweeteners. Yogurt also makes great smoothies. Here are our fav yogurt recipes.
I saved the best for last. This lesser-known protein should be categorized as cheese, but I wanted for it to have its own standing. An awesome, creamy yet firm, moderately low calorie, meat-free protein is paneer. It is easy to make. Here is a DIY paneer recipe. It is also readily available at the frozen section in Indian Grocery Stores; brand matters and my fav brand is Haldirams Paneer; the pre-cubed variety is better than the large chunk. You can add it to salads, Chinese food, Thai curries, noodles, Indian curries, pizza, pasta, and more.
Here is my fav recipe from Salsa City for Fragrant Curry and Saffron Rice.
There are so many plant-based protein options to choose from apart from the ones we went through here, from protein powders and shakes to collagen foods; vegetarian protein choices are plenty, so make sure to do your research, cook them right, and eat clean, taking into consideration the calorie count of certain protein-rich foods. We would love to hear about your plant-based protein recipes, share the love and the food.
For Salsa City Fitness