Enjoy Plant Protein

Whether you’re a vegan, a steak-lover, a raw foodist, an organic devotee, or a fast-food connoisseur, protein is a big deal. And rightly so.

Protein helps the body form muscle, skin and hair. It maintains heart and respiratory functions and aids the immune system. And it provides a powerful supply of slow-burning energy.

It also fills you up, makes you feel strong and grounded, and tastes really, really good. No wonder we like it so much!

The thing is, most Americans eat two-to-three times the amount of protein they actually need—and they often go for animal proteins rich in fat and cholesterol. That’s a big problem.

Excess animal protein in the diet has been linked to disorders including heart disease, cancer, obesity, overtaxed kidneys, and high blood pressure.

How can you get your fill of nourishing protein and still enjoy it?

First, think about portion size. Did you know that a serving of animal protein is four ounces—about the size of a computer mouse? Most of us need only two of these servings a day.

Next, experiment with mixing and matching animal-based proteins and plant-based proteins. Beans and eggs? Tofu and chicken? Almost any kind of chili? They’re all wins.

Lastly, swap some of your red meat, fish, and poultry meals for plant-based proteins. Think nuts and seeds like beans and dried peas; high protein grains like quinoa, amaranth, and chia; and even soy. (A great resource is Cresent Dragonwagon’s new book, Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! )
For inspiration, try the hummus below for a delicious protein-packed dip.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 8 servings

2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas
1/3 cup water (can use broth or chickpea water left over cooking)
3 tablespoons tahini
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 to ½ teaspoon cumin

* Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. It is easier to do it in several, smaller batches.
* Once blended, stir in a mixing bowl and taste.
* Add more seasonings if desired.
* Spread on a serving platter and sprinkle paprika or chili powder and a little olive oil over whole plate.
TIP: Try the same recipe with different kinds of beans such as navy beans or black beans.

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