For most Americans, meat is the traditional source of protein and the one we hear most about, but we may be overlooking the powerhouse of protein that plants represent. It turns out that plants are packed with protein and unlike meat they are easy for our bodies to absorb and use. Take asparagus, for instance, just eight small spears of this delectable veggie have 3.08 grams of protein, which is pretty potent for such a slender stem. Asparagus is the number one plant-based source for Vitamin K, which is indicated in preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. It also contains Vitamin A and folate, which are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, and indicated in the prevention of birth defects. Asparagus reduces water retention, acts as an aphrodisiac (woo-hoo!), and it’s a good source of potassium, glutathione, vitamin C, antioxidants (glumatic acid, glycine and cysteine) and more.
Unlike meat sources of protein, plant-based foods are free from cholesterol, high in fiber, and alkalizing to the body. Animal products are essentially devoid of fiber and acidifying to the body, which causes leaching of calcium from the bones and a decreasing level of oxygen in the blood – negatively impacting the digestive and lymphatic systems.
Every whole food contains some level of protein, so with a whole food diet there are millions of great combinations and options to choose from when it comes to creating a balanced diet with the right percentage of protein for your body.
If asparagus is not your thing, take a closer look at the healthy, tasty and completely versatile cauliflower. Who knew that an off-white crunchy veggie could be so good? One cup cooked equals 2.28 grams of protein and a truckload of nutrients to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. These include carotenoids (beta-carotene and Phytonutrients) that are composed of kaempferol, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid and caffeic acid, which help protect your body against free radical damage. The cancer fighting agent is sulforaphane, which is complemented by omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation. Cauliflower is also a good source of vitamin C, manganese, glucosinolates (glucoraphin), vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid), phosphorus and potassium, indole-3-carbinol (strong cancer fighting indications) and more.
If you are still not convinced, consider good old peanuts. One ounce (approximately 28 peanuts dry roasted without salt) equals 6.71 grams of protein and it doesn’t stop there. Co-Enzyme Q10 protects the heart during times of low oxygen and would you believe that peanuts have resveratrol, a boflavonoid believed to improve blood flow in the brain and lower your LDL cholesterol? It’s not over yet, peanuts also contain niacin, which assists in recovery of cell damage and protects against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive problems. And, peanuts are also a good source of calcium, iron, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folates, copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, antioxidants (polyphenols p-coumaric acid) and more.
So, what could a full plate of protein look like for an evening meal? If you include in your meal just a ¼ cup (dry) quinoa, you get an additional 6 grams of protein. Pair this grain with a couple of spears of asparagus and a cauliflower, broccoli and sprouted mung bean stir fry, you would have an easy meal with 30 grams of protein or more.
Our bodies are incredibly effective so every food going into our system is broken apart and its nutrients absorbed. During the digestion process, amino acid chains from all sources are broken down and made ready for our bodies to use. If we are eating a good mix of fruits, veggies, grains and legumes, then our body simply collects what it needs from the mix that our digestion system has absorbed. There are a growing number of bodybuilders, ultra marathon runners, and award-winning athletes out there to prove that meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet is simple and successful.
 *More is not necessarily better when it comes to protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the average, sedentary adult is only 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Some healthcare professionals argue that this level is too high. No matter whose recommendation you choose to follow, the fact is that each person’s protein needs are different, but all can be met with a plant-based diet.