The benefits of eating more high protein foods include improved muscle mass, weight management, stabilized blood sugar levels, improved mood, healthy brain and heart function, and slower aging.
1. Pea Protein
Vegan. Gluten Free. Soy Free. Grain-Free. Paleo-Friendly
Yellow pea protein can provide a supplemental source of dietary protein for vegetarians and/or vegans who cannot use animal proteins. Whey protein, because of its derivation from milk (watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese), is not consumed by vegans. Pea protein is a good alternative to whey protein powders for addition to smoothies or drinks for supplemental protein. There has been recent studies and increasing evidence on the benefits of plant based diets. Plant based diets can help reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and the risk of early death. Recent reports from the American Heart Association found that people who received 70 percent or more of their food from vegetables, fruits and whole grains had a 20 percent less risk of dying from heart disease.
Pea protein is also great for people who have food allergies to egg, milk and soy-derived protein. Lactose is a sugar substance in milk and can cause severe allergic reactions such as gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, bloating, diarrhea or vomiting. Yellow pea protein contains no gluten in comparison to the wheat protein of other types. Pea proteins are usually organic and contain very little or no artificial ingredients.
My favorite reason for using pea protein as an alternative to whey or soy is that it is more environmentally friendly. Fewer resources are necessary to cultivate yellow peas thus saving water and other crops. In addition, the nitrogen that is produced by the peas is returned to the soil and decreases the need for fertilizer.
Is there a downside to pea proteins? Unlike whey proteins, pea proteins are plant based and do not contain all the amino acids that our body needs to function to its potential. Therefore, pea protein should be combined with grains, nuts or seeds and for the non vegan/vegetarians you can chose to use animal protein.
An example of a combination is making a smoothie with pea protein powder and peanut or almond butter. Although there are plenty of pea protein supplements out there nothing beats eating the protein in whole food. You can easily make a hearty soup out of the yellow split peas!
Vegan. Gluten-Free. Soy-Free. Grain-Free. Paleo-Friendly
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect from cell damage. Spirulina is a great example of a superfood because it contains micronutrients and macronutrients like protein. It has all eight essential amino acids. Many people use spirulina in a powder or pill form. Spirulina can be taken on a daily basis. I enjoy spirulina in a powdered form. It quickly gets right into the blood stream and provides energy building compounds. I add it to smoothies as well as other vegan recipes (these will be listed in an upcoming post).
Spirulina contains micronutrients like B complex vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, beta-carotene and essential fatty acids. It is one of the only plant sources of vitamin B12 which is amazing for vegans and vegetarians.
One of the more commonly studied and talked about components of spirulina is phycocyanobilin, which makes up about 1% of spirulina. This compound mimics the body’s bilirubin compound (kidney health), in order to inhibit a specific enzyme complex oxidase. By inhibiting this complex oxidase, spirulina ultimately provides strong anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects in the body protecting several organ functioning like the liver, kidney, heart and brain.
Laboratory and animal Studies have shown that Spirulina may help strengthen the immune system, protect against allergic reactions, and have antiviral and anticancer properties. More research is needed, however, to determine the exact benefits in humans. This superfood blue-green algae can contain heavy metals and toxins from the water because it absorbs from its surroundings. If you do buy this superfood compound, make sure it is a highly trusted brand like Garden of Life's Perfect Food Green Powder or Garden of Life's Perfect Food Green Caplets.
3. Cricket Flour
Gluten-Free. Dairy-Free. Soy-Free. Grain-Free. Paleo-Friendly
Did you know that 80% of the world eats insects regularly? Crickets are also environmentally friendly. Crickets produce 100x less greenhouse gases than cows. The water requirements for production of crickets are only 1 gallon of water per lb. compared to 2000 gallons of water per lb. of cow meat.
Crickets are a complete protein source, containing all the essential amino acids. They also contain 2.2x more iron than spinach. Cricket protein powder is also a good source of iron and calcium. Cricket flour is made by drying or roasted crickets that are raised on domestic cricket farms. They are then milled into a fine flour that can be used in protein bars, smoothies and baked goods.
A serving of cricket powder is two tablespoons (12 grams) and contains about 7 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat and 0.8 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains about 17 percent daily value of B12 and 23 percent daily value of B2.
According to Consumer Reports, goods containing cricket protein were popular at several product expos across the country. Manufacturers are using the product’s protein and nutrient rich properties as their marketing strategies. They promote cricket flour as a healthier and more sustainable means of protein that beef, pork and chicken.
Concerned with the flavor of crickets? Consumer Reports also taste-tested different cricket flour protein bars Experts all agreed that you would not know that you were eating crickets. Many of the bars contain other natural and or organic ingredients and flavors such as berries, dark chocolate, cacao, coconut and ginger to name a few.
My favorite cricket protein bar is fromEXO. These bars are DELICIOUS! They contain about 10 grams of protein per bar and have the same amount of essential amino acids and Omega-3 fatty acids found in meat, poultry and fish. You can find them here: EXO and Get 15% Off with Code DRSUZ.
Vegan. Gluten-Free. Soy-Free. Paleo-Friendly
Quinoa is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds. It is pronounced KEEN-wah. It is a "seed" which is prepared and eating similarly to a grain. Quinoa was an important crop for the Inca Empire. They referred to it as the “mother of all grains” and believed it to be sacred. It has been consumed for thousands of years in South America, and over the last few years has become more popular in the health food scene.
A serving size (1 cooked cup) of quinoa contains over 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. It is usually grown organically and Non-gmo. Quinoa, unlike many plant foods, is considered a complete source of protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids can not be made by the body and must come from food.
With roughly 120 known varieties, it is often either cooked and added to soups, or made into flour to be used in breads. Quinoa is comparable in energy to similarly eaten foods such as beans, maize, rice or wheat. In addition, quinoa is notable as a good source of polyunsaturated fats and minerals.
While quinoa is a good source of many nutrients, it is important to consume it as a part of a balanced meal with many other food types to obtain good overall nutrition. Here is one of my FAVORITE Quinoa recipes!