WELLNESS--We all know the usual sources of protein, which include chicken, fish, beef and pork along with tofu, eggs, dairy products, and nuts and seeds.
With more people aiming to consume less animal products for both health and ethical reasons, there are plenty of ways to get your protein in the most unexpected of places. As a wellness coach, I am not convinced that everybody does well on a vegetarian or vegan diet, but regardless, it is a great idea to reduce overall animal protein, and to bring in more plant-based protein sources to reduce inflammation and to give our digestion a break and our organs a break.
As a general rule, most active people require approximately 0.5 - 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So a 180 lb. man for example, should consume approximately 90 - 144 grams of protein per day. We normally require less protein than we think so pay close attention to your body and experiment a little bit to find the level that works best for you.
On your next supermarket visit, why not try something new? Here is a list of some unique vegetarian proteins that are easily digestible and great for even the most athletic consumer:
Spinach - 5 grams per cup: Who knew that this healthy vegetable actually had protein too? Steam it up, serve it raw in a salad, or throw it in your smoothie and not only get loads of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but a great deal of protein too.
Peas - 8 grams per cup: Peas are now one of the most popular vegetables used in protein powders and are known to keep people satiated longer then other vegetarian options. Look for a vanilla or chocolate pea protein powder or steam fresh, organic peas and top them with your favorite dairy or vegan butter.
Brown Rice - 5 grams per one cup: Brown rice is another very popular protein that is used in powder form. It can also be eaten in a healthy rice pudding, as a morning cereal with nuts, or as a side dish.
Beans - 10 grams per half cup: Beans have always been a favorite for vegetarians and vegans because they contain some of the highest quality protein available and they are very filling. Depending on the type from white, adzuki, pinto, kidney, black, navy, garbanzo and lima beans, white beans contain the most protein.
Quinoa - 4 grams per half cup: Quinoa has become one of the most popular grains because of its high protein content and delicious, nutty flavor. It is also found in unique and healthy pasta options along with protein bars and snacks.
Soy - Up to 40 grams per cup: Soybeans including edaname have always been a very high source of protein. Soymilk, ice cream, and other products are great for vegans and vegetarians although may convert into estrogen so it is advised that most people consider other sources of plant-based protein along with soy products.
Teff - 14 grams per half cup: This is a grain that you hear very little about. Teff is a wonderful alternative to oatmeal in the morning topped with cinnamon, honey, and a milk product of your choice. Teff contains a surprisingly high amount of quality protein and it is rich in Vitamin C, amino acids, and calcium.
Lentils - 18 grams per cup: Lentils are a delicious option for those who want more vegetarian protein in their diet. They can be served warm or chilled in a salad mixed with feta cheese, fresh vegetables, and homemade vinaigrette.
Chia - 2.5 grams per tablespoon: Who would have known that our Chia pets from the 1970’s would become one of the healthiest seeds in the world. Chia can be used in baking, smoothies, and by letting it sit overnight in almond, hemp, or coconut milk along with cinnamon, vanilla, and honey, you’ll create the most delicious pudding imaginable.
Hemp - 3.3 grams per tablespoon: Hemp is another great source of plant-based protein. Add hemp to your cookies, smoothies, cereal, or sprinkle hemp hearts over your favorite salad.
Make sure to experiment this week. Try something new and shake things up. Focus on consuming less animal products and more plant-based protein. You may be surprised at how easy it is to make the substitutions and your body will definitely thank you.
(Jay Bradley is a Youthful Aging, Wellness & Lifestyle Expert Living in Los Angeles. http://www.JayBradleyLifestyle.com. He is the Best-Selling Author of LIVE LOOK FEEL, The 12-Week Guide to Live Longer, Look Younger & Feel Better!)