There’s a false perception that plant-based food is lacking in protein. In Carina Wolff's new cookbook, Plant-Based Protein Recipes That You’ll Love , she says, “By choosing to eat more plant-based proteins, you help lower your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Especially because plant-based foods contain many beneficial phytonutrients—natural chemicals that help prevent disease strengthen your immune system, fight aging, and more.”
Here are 5 Protein Myths that will have you thinking a little differently.
Myth 1: Protein is only in meat.
Truth: Vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are excellent sources of protein without the health risks of meat and other animal products. A half cup of firm tofu contains 13 grams of protein and is not linked to diabetes. A cup of lentils has 16 grams of protein and has no cholesterol. Split peas have 16 grams of protein per cup and are cholesterol free. Just one broccoli stalk has more than 4 grams of protein and is low in calories. The list goes on:
Myth 2: You need a ton of protein—and you’re not getting it.
Truth: If you follow the traditional Western diet—meat and dairy products—you are most likely getting twice as much protein as you actually need. That can harm the body. One study found that those who consume the most animal protein raised their diabetes risk by 22 percent. Excessive protein consumption is also linked to osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function, and heart disease.
Someone who weighs 150 pounds only needs 54 grams of protein per day. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To find out your average individual need, perform the following calculation: Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams).
Myth 3: Protein is good; carbs are bad.
Truth: Both protein and carbohydrates are part of a nutritionally balanced diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source and should take up the majority of your plate. Grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans are considered carbohydrates. They are also excellent sources of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. A carbohydrate deficiency results in ketosis, a state where the body does burn fat—at the expense of side effects including bad breath, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, and possible organ damage, among other symptoms.
Myth 4: Protein combining is an absolute necessity.
Truth: There’s no need to plan meals around complementary proteins. In 2009, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) released a paper stating that eating a variety of plant foods over the course of the day provides all the required amino acids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the AND and discredits the rumor that humans need to eat certain proteins together to receive adequate nutrition.
Myth 5: High-protein diets help you lose weight.
Truth: Calories are calories, whether they’re from carbs or protein. Excess protein calories will not magically turn into muscle. To lose weight in a healthy way, it is important to have a balanced diet focusing on all of the necessary nutrients. Instead of following the protein-fortified fad, many Americans could benefit from finding ways to incorporate plant-based protein sources into their meals. For recipes, try the 21-Day Kickstart or visit NutritionMD.org.
Whether you’re completely plant-based, looking to save some money on ingredients, or just want creative ideas for Meatless Mondays, these three high-protein plant-based dinners have you covered.
Try out a new healthy recipe! It can be one of the ones listed below or one you have been wanting to try!
Vegetable Polenta Bake
Polenta’s creamy texture makes it perfect for the inside of a gooey bake. And, because polenta is made of corn, it provides some additional protein along with the kidney beans, for a total of 10.2 grams per serving. Throw on some peppers, onions, tomatoes, artichokes, kidney beans, and just a little bit of Parmesan cheese, and you have an easy meal that appeals to both gourmands and picky eaters alike.
· 2 cups uncooked polenta
· 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
· 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
· 1 large red bell pepper
· 1 medium yellow bell pepper
· 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
· 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
· ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes, halved
· ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
· ½ tablespoons breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook polenta according to package instructions.
2. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-low. Add onions and bell peppers and cook 4 to 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Mix in kidney beans and remove from heat.
3. Spread polenta evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread the onion, pepper, and bean mixture over the polenta. Top with artichokes and tomatoes, and drizzle on the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Finish off with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, and bake 20 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble. Serve immediately.
This Lentil Meatloaf is hearty, filling, and free of beef, but it can help satisfy that craving when you’re in the mood for comfort food. It’s already pretty moist as is, but you can prepare extra glaze if you like your meatloaf a bit saucier. This dish has 13.6 grams of protein per serving.
Ingredients, Tomato Glaze
· ¼ cup no-salt-added tomato paste
· ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
· 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
· 1 tablespoon raw wild honey
· 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
· 1 cup dried green lentils
· 2½ cups water
· 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
· ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
· ½ cup chopped carrots
· 3 cups sliced button mushrooms
· 2 large cloves garlic
· ¼ cup no-salt-added tomato paste
· 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
· ½ teaspoon dried thyme
· ½ teaspoon dried oregano
· 1½ cups rolled oats
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. For Tomato Glaze: Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
3. For Meatloaf: First, prepare lentils. Add lentils and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 35 to 40 minutes.
4. While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium. Add onions and carrots, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook 6 to 7 minutes more or until vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally.
5. Add half of the lentils and the vegetable mixture to a blender or food processor along with tomato paste, soy sauce, thyme, and oregano. Pulse together until ingredients are combined, but not too blended, about 5 to 10 seconds. You want the mixture to have a chunky texture similar to ground meat.
6. In a large mixing bowl, combine lentil mixture, remaining plain lentils, and oats. Line a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil. Dump the mixture onto the baking sheet and form it into a loaf. It should be about 8 by 4 inches.
7. Spread half of the glaze over the top and on the sides. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and spread on the rest of the glaze; return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. Slice to serve.
Barley Risotto With Peas and Asparagus
(I use Quinoa, which is also HIGH in protein!)
Traditional risotto is made with Arborio rice, but this recipe uses barley, which gives this risotto a lot more protein and fiber. This recipe uses quick-cook barley, so it will take you longer if you use the regular kind. In addition, this spring-inspired risotto is loaded with green vegetables, and although it is hearty, it will leave you feeling light and refreshed. If you’re avoiding dairy, you can leave out the Parmesan cheese and the dish will still retain its flavor, but you can always add some nutritional yeast for some faux cheesiness as well as extra protein, beyond the whopping 13.3 grams per serving this meal already has.
· ½ pound (8 ounces) asparagus spears
· 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
· 2½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
· ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
· 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
· 1 large leek, thinly sliced (white part only)
· 1 cup quick-cook barley
· Zest and juice of 2 small lemons
· 1½ cups English peas
· ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Drizzle asparagus with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Roast in the oven on a large baking pan 12 to 15 minutes. Chop asparagus into smaller pieces (about 1 inch long) to be added to the risotto.
2. While asparagus is roasting, bring broth to a boil in a small pan. Then lower the temperature just enough to keep warm.
3. In a large pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium. Add onion, garlic, and leek, and cook 5 minutes. Add barley and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
4. Add lemon zest and ½ cup of the warm broth, and cook until broth is absorbed. Stir frequently. Continue adding broth in ½-cup increments until the barley is cooked and tender. When you have 1 cup left, add peas. Then continue to add the last cup ½ cup at a time.
5. Once all the broth has been added and absorbed, mix in the asparagus, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.