Is one of your new years resolutions to cut back on meat and eat a more plant-based diet?
Maybe you’re a bit confused on how to include more plant-based protein sources into your diet?
When considering a “meat light” diet, it’s important to understand which plant sources contain the vitamins, minerals, & protein that your body needs to sustain good health.
Because most plant sources of protein are not considered “complete proteins”, meaning they don’t contain all of the types of proteins needed by the body, it’s important to pay attention to combing plant sources for an optimal diet. As a general rule, on days that you don’t eat meat or other animal products (dairy, eggs…) you will need to ensure to eat a combination of the following to get the right types of protein you need each day:
Option #1: Grains + Legumes
Option #2: Legumes + seeds/nuts
Option #3: Grains + seeds/nuts
Great sources of plant-based protein, vitamins & minerals are:
- Nuts & seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Grains (rice, kamut, wheat, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa etc..)
- Spirulina & other algae
- Soy products (I’m reluctant to write this here, but I know you would be wondering if I didn’t. The debate is out on soy and it’s ability to mimic Estrogen and cause serious hormonal problems for most people. I mostly avoid it and don’t consider it a part of a healthy diet)
If you include a variety of the above plant sources as well as continue to eat a few animal products, you are probably getting more than enough protein in your diet. If you plan to go completely plant-based, you can also obtain all the protein you need from food, but will need to do a bit more research and planning.
Don’t get me started on all this “more protein” talk going around these days. Unless you’re an extreme athlete, pregnant or strict vegan, you are most likely getting all the protein your body needs from your daily diet. There is rarely a need to be adding increasingly fake proteins and powders into your diet. For more information on what I’m talking about here, come on over and read this blog post and find out how much protein you need in a day.
OK, back to those legumes.
Let me clarify a few terms for you first:
Legume: The major class of plants whose fruits are enclosed in a pod (peas, beans, peanuts, lentils)
Beans (oval or kidney shaped): A class of legume that includes kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, white beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, green beans etc…
Peas (round shaped): A class of legume that includes green peas, split peas, black-eyed peas…
Lentils (disk shaped): Another class of legume including red lentils, green lentils, black lentils, yellow lentils, brown lentils…
Why you should include more legumes in your diet:
- They are very high in protein (which your body uses to build & repair muscles)
- They are loaded with wonderful fiber (which your body needs to keep the digestive system healthy)
- They are a great source of carbohydrates (which your body needs to create energy)
- They are versatile
- Eating more legumes can allow you to minimize your meat consumption while increasing your health & putting less pressure on the planet
- They are rich in many important vitamins & minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc & B vitamins.
OK, so now you can see how beneficial legumes can be for your health, you may be ready to start adding more of them into your diet.
Right about now you’re probably singing “beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot”.
Unfortunately, most beans also contain acids that can be difficult to digest and can cause unwanted bloating and gas in some people.
But not to worry! There’s a solution!
How to make legumes easier to digest & cook:
To help break down those hard to digest acids & components in legumes, you need to soak them in water for at least 12-24 hours & then cook them fully. Some people have had luck with adding a piece of kombu or nori to their soaking water to help break down the acids even further. Pre-soaking the legumes allows them to break down these difficult acids as well as make the cooking time quicker.
Sorry, but canned legumes do not produce the same results. Most canned legumes are not soaked/sprouted and are resting in a combination of water, salt, & preservatives. Use dry or fresh legumes as much as possible.
How to prepare & cook legumes for optimal digestion:
- Rinse legumes & cover with ample water (they will expand a lot as they soak)
- Let them soak in the fridge for 12-24 hours (this is where the magic happens)
- Rinse and put them in a large pot to cook. Follow cooking directions here
- Cool or enjoy them warm. You can freeze cooked beans for up to 3 months. Simply pre-cook a few cups of beans and always have some on hand in your freezer or fridge to toss into meals when ready.
So, now that you’re ready to add more legumes into your diet and you know how to prepare them, you’re probably wondering HOW to eat them.
Here are some of my favourite ways to enjoy legumes every day:
1. Toss them in your salad. My favourites are chickpeas or black beans.
Salad recipes with legumes
2. Create delicious soups. All types of legumes are delicious in soups or stews. I love using lentils, peas, and any type of bean in soups.
3. Use in curry dishes. A great way to combine legumes & grains to ensure your protein is covered for the day!.
4. Replace the meat in your favourite chili recipe
5. Make tacos
6. Add them to your morning egg scramble. My favourites are black beans & lentils.
7. Create hearty burritos.
8. Make hummus & spread it on everything (I’m in love!)
9. Make delicious burger patties
10. Toast for a delicious snack
Now that you know WHY you should eat more legumes, HOW you can cook them for optimal digestion, & WHAT to do with them, it’s time to hit the kitchen.
How will you add more legumes to your diet this week?
Love & Legumes,