Regardless of what we all grew up believing, meat, dairy and eggs aren’t the only sources of complete protein. There are 20 amino acids in the human body: nine of which are essential, meaning your body can’t produce them on its own and eleven that are non-essential amino acids meaning your body can produce them without the help from food. The nine essential amino acids are what we know as complete protein, which means they're more beneficial than incomplete proteins. Animal sources aren't necessarily the best options, so try adding some of these unique sources of complete protein to your next meal and see what you think!
Spirulina is a type of algae and the best of all sources of complete protein. It is 60-70% protein compared to beef, which is only 22% protein. Per teaspoon, spirulina has 4 grams of protein and a teaspoon of beef has just 1 gram. Not to mention spirulina contains more iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 than any other food. Use a tablespoon in a smoothie with some vanilla, a frozen banana, blueberries and spinach with almond milk for a tasty treat that keeps you energized and strong all day long!
This magical grain-like seed is a rich source of protein and one of the healthiest complex carbs you can eat. Quinoa is also a rich source of iron, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and fiber. Cooked with some savory seasonings and veggie broth or even eaten for breakfast with cinnamon, bananas, and almond milk, quinoa is the perfect meal addition, any way you use it.
Regardless of its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and isn’t even an actual grain, though it gets categorized in the grain family due to its nutrient profile. Buckwheat is the seed of a fruit plant and a rich source of complete protein, B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium. Many people enjoy it as a gluten-free alternative hot cereal but you can also eat it sprouted or made into granola. It has a rich nutty flavor with a robust heartiness that keeps you full for hours.
4. Hemp Seed
Hemp seed is especially rich in magnesium, B vitamins, omega 3 and omega 6 fats, iron, and potassium. Hemp seed contains 13 grams of protein per three tablespoons and a whopping 14 grams of fiber to go along with it! Sprinkle some on your next smoothie, oatmeal, or salad. You can also enjoy these nutty seeds as an alternative to protein powder if you wish.
Chia seeds are one of the best plant-based protein sources of iron, potassium, B vitamins, fiber, and omega 3 fats. For only two tablespoons of chia, you’ll get 10 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber to keep you full for hours on end. Though the seeds are tasteless, you can enjoy them in so many delicious foods like smoothies, oatmeal, puddings, salad dressings, energy snacks, and homemade protein bars.
Recent studies confirm that soy is actually beneficial to the body for aiding in bone strength, reducing PMS and hot flashes, cancer risks, and it’s a wonderful source of complete plant protein. Soy beans also contain omega 3 fats, iron, potassium, and fiber. Opt for a cup of non-GMO, organic and unsweetened soy milk in your next smoothie for only 80 calories and 7 grams of protein. You can also opt to eat tofu, edamame, or tempeh as another way to get this tasty food into your diet.
7. Sprouted Grain Bread
Sprouted grain bread is flour-free and made from sprouted seeds and grains that are living and brimming with nutrients,including protein. Unlike shelf-stable bread that is refined ( even whole grain options), sprouted grain bread is considered one of the most perfect foods you can eat. You’ll find sprouted grain bread in the freezer aisle and all you have to do is thaw in the fridge to enjoy all week. PB and J or toast and jam anyone?
Next time you think about protein, I hope you’ll consider some of these plant-based sources of complete protein. They’re more friendly to your body, the planet, and the animals you save with every single bite. Do you eat any of these? Which one is your favorite?