If you are not a huge meat eater, fear not because there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium, iron, and protein. You don’t have to lack vital nutrients because you prefer plant-based foods. Like meat sources, many plants contain the essential amino acids your body needs for healthy growth and development.
Plant-Based Food Options
Here are some plant-based foods you can add to your diet to reap the nutritional benefits.
Regarding health-giving foods, avocado is always at the top of the list. One avocado has over four grams of protein and healthy fats with antioxidant components.
This popular dark green vegetable is a high-protein food with powerful antioxidants and vitamins. It is also packed with iron and cancer-fighting sulforaphane. Broccoli has high calcium and phytonutrients as well, which strengthens your bones. So this vegetable includes all three of our target nutrients – protein, calcium, and iron.
Kale is plentiful in protein, vitamins, and folate. Its calcium content is absorbed quickly by the body because kale has minimal oxalic acid. If high oxalic acid intake binds with calcium in your body, it can render calcium absorption ineffective. One cup of kale provides one milligram of iron, an essential mineral to transport oxygen throughout your body.
This leafy green vegetable is rich in iron and protein that boosts cell regeneration and is an excellent source of calcium, copper, manganese, and vitamins A, B, C, and K. No wonder it was Popeye’s superfood! It contains many essential nutrients.
Spirulina is a tiny blue-green alga, but although small, it is super powerful. Spirulina contains protein and calcium. Adding this to your diet helps to protect your body from inflammation, boosts the immune system, regulates blood sugar levels, and is also an excellent supplement for menopause. One tablespoon of spirulina yields four grams of protein, and 100 grams contains 120 milligrams of calcium.
Fruits have high amino acid content, iron, and vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B, and E. A list of fruit isn’t necessary, as there are plenty to pick from!
This is a protein-rich food that is also rich in vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potato has 5.5 grams of protein. Combining with another protein source high in lysine is best because this amino acid is lost when heated.
Edamame is a soy-based protein, iron, calcium, fiber, and vitamin C source. A cup of young, green, unripe edamame contains 18 grams of protein and is high in essential amino acids. Edamame seeds are eaten boiled, seared in a pan, or steamed. You can also consume them raw in their pods as a snack or protein-rich salad.
You can replace animal-based calcium, iron, and protein sources with legumes. Excellent examples are beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Properly cook, ferment, or soak them, and they will significantly boost your intake of these essential nutrients.
Legumes are easy to prepare and are healthy and tasty. Eat a bowl of chili with beans, or prepare hearty hummus with chickpeas as a dip for veggie sticks. You can add lentils to salads or soups. A cup or 50 grams of legumes contains 6 mg of iron, 15 to 18 grams of protein, and up to 11% of the recommended daily calcium intake.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts, seeds, and nut butter are substitutes for protein-rich animal products and are rich in protein, iron, fiber, magnesium, selenium, vitamin E, and zinc. One 28-gram serving of nuts and seeds has 5 to 12 grams of protein. Enjoy eating nuts and seeds as they are, or add them to your favorite dishes. Choose unblanched or unroasted varieties to retain their nutrients. Also, choose natural nut butter without oil, salt, and sugar.
- Seeds – Chia and flax seeds are excellent substitutes for eggs in some recipes. Add chia seeds to yogurts or sprinkle them on your salads. Hemp seeds have nutritionally complete fractions for optimal health. They are great additions to salads and smoothies. Pumpkin seeds are excellent snacks with high amounts of protein, zinc, healthy fatty acids, and essential amino acids. Put them into salads and soak them first for easier digestion.
- Nuts – Nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts are protein-packed snacks. Peanut butter has easily digestible plant-based protein and 20 amino acids. Spread it on your wholegrain bread for a protein-rich snack.
Eating a bowl of oatmeal can give you plenty of protein to keep you full until lunchtime. Forty grams of cooked oats can give you five grams of protein. Bolstering a plant-based diet with the above foods will help you avoid being nutrient-deficient and stay energized, strong, and healthy!