Power of Protein


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Most of us know we need protein to help rebuild and repair muscle, especially after a workout, but this macronutrient plays many other important roles in our body. Protein is what our cells and tissues are made up of, it aids in digestion, immune system function, hormone balance and hair/skin/nail health. Like healthy fats, protein stays in the stomach longer, so it also helps with appetite regulation by keeping us full for longer and thus is key to weight management too.

In the standard American diet, we tend to pile on the protein at dinner. A more balanced approach is spreading it out throughout the day, aiming for no more than 20-30g of protein per meal because our bodies can’t easily utilize more than that at one time. Protein needs depend on a variety of factors including activity level, gender, height, weight, and an individuals health and wellness goals. However, a general rule of thumb for a healthy individual is to aim for at least 1g protein per kg body weight (ex. 150 lbs person should aim for at least 68g protein per day).

Protein isn’t only found in animal based products like meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. There are a variety of plant-based protein sources including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax), nutritional yeast, soy based foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh, seitan and whole grains like oats, quinoa, wild/brown rice, millet, amaranth and wheat. By focusing on plant-based protein, we’re able to consume more healthy fats (vs. saturated fats found in animal based products) and fiber, plus these choices tend to be more micronutrient rich by nature (literally!).

Take the plant-based, protein-packed, Nashville Hot Kale Salad at E + Rose Wellness (above) – cashews, hemp seeds and crunchy chickpeas are all offering a healthy dose of protein in a fiber filled salad – a combo that will keep you satisfied so you aren’t searching for a snack 20 minutes later!


What are your favorite plant-based proteins? Comment below, and bring some plant-based, protein-packed, meals to your kitchen like this comforting Red Lentil Tempeh Chili!

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RED LENTIL TEMPEH CHILI

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 TBSP. OLIVE OIL

  • 1 LARGE SWEET ONION, DICED

  • 3 LARGE GARLIC CLOVES, MINCED

  • 1 RED PEPPER, DICED

  • 2 TBSP. CHILI POWDER

  • 1 TBSP. CUMIN

  • 1 TSP. SMOKED PAPRIKA

  •  1 15 OZ. CAN DICED TOMATOES

  • 2 CUPS LOW SODIUM VEGETABLE BROTH

  • 3/4 CUP DRY RED LENTILS , RINSED

  • 1 15 OZ. CAN BLACK BEANS, DRAINED + RINSED

  • 1 CUP WATER

  • 1 8 OZ. PACK OF TEMPEH, ROUGHLY CHOPPED [I USED TRADER JOE'S]

  • 1 TBSP. AGAVE/HONEY/MAPLE SYRUP [FOR SWEETNESS!]

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. HEAT OLIVE OIL ON MEDIUM HIGH HEAT IN A LARGE POT.

  2. ADD ONION, GARLIC AND RED PEPPER AND SAUTÉ UNTIL ONION TURNS SLIGHTLY TRANSLUCENT.

  3. ADD CHILI POWDER, CUMIN, AND SMOKED PAPRIKA AND SAUTÉ FOR ANOTHER MINUTE.

  4. ADD TOMATOES AND VEGETABLE BROTH AND BRING TO A BOIL.

  5. ADD LENTILS AND REDUCE TO A LOW BOIL FOR 15 MINUTES, STIRRING OCCASIONALLY.

  6. ADD BLACK BEANS, WATER AND TEMPEH. COVER AND LET COOK FOR 20 MINUTES, STIRRING OCCASIONALLY.

  7. FINISH OFF WITH SWEETENER OF CHOICE AND ANY ADJUSTMENTS IN SEASONING. ENJOY!

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Author: Lara Harris, MS, RD, LD, registered dietitian and owner of The Well Fed Guide, LLC.