The next time you want to consider a more “healthy” protein source than having a steak, take a look at the nutritional profile of lentils.
To reduce fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol while increasing fiber, the lentils win hands down. With all that lentils have going for them, you’d think more people would be eating them. Yet dried beans, peas, and lentils combined contribute less to the daily protein intake of folks than you think.
An added bonus is that high-protein plant foods also contribute complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals to the diet. Since these plant foods contain little fat, they are nutrient dense; that is, they provide a high amount of protein and nutrients relative to their energy contribution.
Grains and grain products, legumes (lentils and dried beans and peas such as kidney beans or chickpeas), starchy vegetables, and nuts and seeds all provide protein. A serving of a grain product or starchy vegetable provides an average of about 5 grams of protein, a serving of legumes provides 10 to 20 grams of protein, and a serving of vegetables provides about 3 grams of protein. And although a serving of these foods contains less protein than a serving of meat, you can eat more plant protein foods for fewer calories, which is great for your waist!
It’s important to remember that plant proteins lack one or more of the indispensable amino acids needed to build body proteins, so individual plant proteins need to complement each other. A simple rule to remember in complementing plant proteins is that combining grains and legumes or combining legumes and nuts or seeds provides a complete set of proteins that your body needs.
If you want to get really technical, then soybeans are the best, complete protein source you can find – comparable to animal protein. In addition, soybeans provide no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are rich in isoflavonoids—phytochemicals that help reduce risk of heart disease and cancer and improve bone health.
Isoflavonoids act as antioxidants, protecting cells and tissues from damage. Isoflavonoids protect LDL cholesterol (the kind of cholesterol associated with greater risk of heart disease) from oxidation. Oxidized LDL cholesterol contributes to the plaque buildup in arteries.
The isoflavones in soybeans also act as phytoestrogens, helping to protect older women from cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Soy foods that contain most or all of the bean, such as soy milk, sprouts, flour, and tofu, are the best sources of these phytochemicals.
It is easy to incorporate a variety of soy foods into your diet. Tofu, tempeh, ground soy, soy milk, soy flour, and textured soy protein are soy-based products that can be included in many meals and snacks.
Soy Foods you Should Try :
Soft tofu can be substituted for cheese in pasta dishes, stuffed in large shell pasta, blended with fruit, or used to make pie filling. Hard tofu can be used in salads, shish-kebabs, and in place of meat in stir-fry or mixed dishes.
Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is delicious. Tempeh can be spiced up and eaten with rice, or included in sandwiches, or combined in casseroles.
Vegetarian Meat Soy
Meat analogues are meat alternatives made primarily of soy protein. Flavored and textured to resemble chicken, beef, and pork, they can be substituted for meat and eaten with rice. Be somewhat cautious of too much of these, as they tend to be deepfried and rather oily.
This liquid form of the soybean comes in regular and low-fat versions and in different flavors. Soy milk can be used plain or substituted for regular milk on cereals, in hot cocoa, puddings, or desserts.
Soy flour is made from roasted soybeans ground into flour. Soy flour can replace up to one-quarter of the regular flour in a recipe.