Nature's Path Blog

Six Plant-Based Proteins To Fill & Fuel You Up

Posted by Dr. Rimjhim Duggal Stephens on December 23, 2015 under Organic News & Sustainability


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A well-rounded, whole food, and plant rich diet is the key to consistent energy levels and the general maintenance of health. It may seem like common sense that eating an array of nutrient dense food nature has abundantly provided should be central to our diet, but quite often, these foods are underutilized by us all.

One part of the nutrition discussion that is more important now than ever before is protein. And specifically, plant protein. Rotating where your amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are coming from, helps offer your body the variety needed to combine together to form complete and essential proteins. Regardless of how you define your diet and lifestyle – whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo or think of yourself as a carnivore – plant proteins now indisputably fall under the “well-rounded, common-sense” category for nutrition advice.

Beans have lots of protein

We’ve always known that plant-based proteins are easy for the body to break down, making the amino acids more accessible to absorb and utilize. A focus on plant-based proteins is at the forefront of dietary conversations after the October 2015 release of the World Health Organization studies on meat which concluded that processed meats (hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef and beef jerky, etc.) as carcinogenic (cause cancer) for humans and that red meat is “probably” carcinogenic to humans.

Choosing plant-based proteins more often could be one of the most important transformative and preventative food choices you make for your health. So whether you're new to plant proteins or just need some renewed inspiration, here are my 6 most recommended proteins:

1. Lentils

Offering 18g Protien/Cup lentils pack a protein punch.  Mixed in salad, added to soup, blended for spreads, or cooked with ethnic flavor, lentils will leave you with a pretty plate and long lasting energy.  They can be cooked at home or are also available in pre-cooked packages that make taking them to work easy as well. 

2. Seitan

Weighing in at 18g Protein/3 oz., seitan, made from wheat gluten, is a great meat alternative and a tasty one too.  It is dense in texture and can be sautéed with your favorite sauces, cut in pieces to add to salad, and for a tasty treat, breaded, just in time for the holiday season. 

3. Tempeh

If you’ve heard of tofu, then tempeh is a similar soybean based protein that is fermented.  Also at 18g Protein/3oz., tempeh is great in Asian dishes, as a meat replacement such as ‘meatballs’ in spaghetti, and also makes a great mock burger.  It can also be seasoned with miso and served with rice and veggies.

Qia crusted tofu

4. Hemp Seeds

A special seed that has a combination of both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, hemp is a bioavailable and complete protein on it’s one.  It provides 16g Protein/serving of 3 tbs. and can be added atop salads, soups, and cereal.  It’s inherent, nutty flavor is also great in smoothies.

5. Beans

Beans are a mainstay in my diet and are a colorful and tasty way to incorporate protein.  It’s fun to experiment with kidney, garbanzo, chickpeas, black, white, pinto, lima, soybean, and black-eyed peas.  Offering 12-16g Protein/Cup, beans can be eaten raw, sprouted, fermented, cooked, ground into flour, or made into tofu!

6. Quinoa

At 11 g Protein/Cup, quinoa is a great high protein alternative to pasta and rice.  It can be added to salad cold or heated and used as a dinner side with vegetables.  Quinoa is very malleable so can be mixed into a veggie burger, your morning smoothie or made into a breakfast cereal flake.  


Dr. Rimjhim Duggal Stephens is a champion of all things health-related. With her medical training, her interest in healing through food, and her enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge, she untangles the often-confusing realm of nutrition as the Nature’s Path wellness guide. Tune in for her relevant and useful tips for health and happiness, and stay for her compassionate approach to healthy eating.