Americans have become somewhat obsessed with protein these days and we tend to be an "over-proteined" nation overall. The truth is that ounce per ounce, pound per pound, calorie per calorie, plant-based protein may pack a more powerful punch than animal protein. Take broccoli, for example.
100 calories of broccoli = 11 grams protein -versus-
100 calories red meat = 6 grams protein
Take another example:
1 cup of cooked spinach has approximately 75 calories and 5.4 grams of protein (this is equivalent to 51% protein)
1 fast food cheeseburger has 350 calories and 18 grams of protein (this is equivalent to 21% protein)
When it comes to our nutrition in general, the more plant-based our diets, the greater our longevity and overall health and wellness. We've long turned to the Mediterranean diet as a fine example of how and what to eat (olive oil, vegetables, fruits, whole grains). Now researchers are looking at the Okinawan culture, for Okinawans have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. This little island south of Japan can claim the highest percentage of centenarians anywhere. Okinawans have an extremely low incidence of heart disease (America's biggest killer). Breast cancer and prostate cancer are extremely rare.
What is their secret? Well, the average person in Okinawa eats at least seven servings of vegetables daily. They eat mostly whole grains (about 5-7 servings daily) in the form of rice, noodles, and bread. They enjoy two to four servings of fruit daily, seaweed, green tea, tofu and they eat fish on average three times per week (about 11% of their diet). They enjoy sweet potatoes. Meat accounts for a mere 3% of their diet. Okinawans don't take in a lot of dairy products. The big take home here is that Okinawans obtain the majority of their nutrition from a plant-based diet.
Of course you can't base wellness on diet alone. Okinawans engage an active lifestyle. They walk, garden, dance, practice martial arts. They look lean and healthy.
So how do you add more plant-based protein to your life and your diet? In addition to simply loading up on dark green leafy vegetables, here's a list of our top plant-based proteins:
1. Quinoa: 8g protein / Cup cooked
2. Lentils: 18g protein / cup
3. Tempeh: 25g protein / 5 ounces
4. Tofu: 10g protein / ½ cup
5. Beans: 12-15g protein / cup
6. Hemp Seeds: 16g protein / 3 Tbl