In India we are blessed to have a huge variety of pulses. Legumes are high protein foods and are a nutritional powerhouse with many health promoting benefits. Their key nutrients include protein, calcium, folate, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Think cowpeas, pigeon peas, kidney beans, red lentils, black lentils, chickpeas, black eyed peas, French beans, pink beans, black beans—an entire week's menu could be planned incorporating one type of bean every day!
Pulses contain virtually no fat, are great for weight management as they give you a feeling of fullness, are entirely gluten free, may help to colonise your gut with good bacteria and if thats not enough, they are environment friendly too. How? Pulses use less energy to grow and therefore, produce less greenhouse gases. Pat yourself on the back if you’ve been eating them regularly!
Go nutty and seedy
Nuts are great sources of protein. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds ( known as khus khus in the Indian kitchen) and sesame seeds. Use your trusted kitchen mixer to rustle up a batch of almond nut butter. Keep refrigerated and use a teaspoonful to top a slice of wholegrain toast and you’ll never crave butter again! You can eat nuts whole too; roast them, toss them with your favourite spices and herbs or sprinkle over your salad. A word of caution, nuts and seeds are also packed with the calories, so just a handful is enough. Chia seeds are yet another great option—these little seeds swell up, take the flavour of the liquid they are soaked in and can help in keeping you rather full.
A cup of milk provides approximately 8 grams of protein. Yoghurt is chock full of goodness. It packs in a protein punch and has a healthy dose of good for your tummy bacteria. You may choose to eat some amount of cheese to add protein to your meal. But it’s important to watch your portion size—somewhere about the size of your thumb will suffice. If milk doesn’t appeal to your palate, you can try almond milk, soy milk or even rice milk! All of them contain decent amounts of protein.
Tofu or bean curd is a popular food derived from the Soybean. It is a good source of protein, iron, calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, zinc plus magnesium, which is the mineral responsible for keeping you in a good mood! I suggest you blend a few pieces of tofu into your favourite morning smoothie to get a smooth, creamy and delicious drink.
Eat your greens
Eat your spinach to get a decent amount of protein and eat every other green too! Other vegetables that can help to add protein to your diet are broccoli, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, mushrooms, cauliflower greens, varied sprouts, beets, turnip greens, green peas, green peppers, coriander, mint, amaranth leaves (locally called math), colocasia leaves (arbi) fenugreek leaves, dill, etc. Veggies have a smattering of protein but remember that every little bit counts!
I suggest you rustle up a healthy stir fry with some greens, garlic and low sodium soy sauce. Get creative by adding in a teaspoonful of sesame seeds and some cubed tofu. You could also try out a sandwich loaded with fresh green chutney, garden fresh veggies and a smattering of crumbled paneer!
Load up on grains and cereals
Yes, even grains have a healthy sprinkling of protein. Let’s talk about Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). This superfood is actually a seed that’s high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. It is a complete source of protein containing all nine amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair but cannot produce on its own. You can use quinoa in a salad, cook it like an upma or make a quinoa pudding with milk and honey for a sweet treat! Moreover, brown rice, black rice, amaranth, buckwheat (kuttu), barley, millets, oats, wheat and even white rice—all contain minimal amounts of protein and must be eaten as part of a healthy diet. You could also try out soy granules and chunks made with soya flour that will up the protein ante. A soya granule pulao loaded with veggies would make a perfect, easy to pack work lunch meal.
Eat healthy, stay happy!
An educator with a passion for food and health, Tulip is a Nutrition and Fitness Expert with a penchant for tweaking every recipe to make it healthier and tastier! She balances fitness classes at her studio, holds workshops on healthy eating, coaches clients on wholesome, nutritious eating and doffs many other hats.
You can catch all of her updates on the Instagram handle @tuliprodrigues