In keeping with our mantra that less is more when it comes to eating animal products, the topic of this blog post is how to get enough protein from plant foods. Many people believe they need to pile their plate high with meat to get enough protein but that is simply not the case.
First a tiny bit of background: Proteins are made up of amino acids strung together in different sequences. There are 20 different amino acids humans need to survive, but our bodies can only make 11 of them. The 9 essential amino acids, which cannot be made by our bodies, must be obtained from our diets. A variety of grains, nuts, legumes, and vegetables can provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies require.
For some practical advice on incorporating plant-derived protein into our diets, we are thrilled to have some input from vegan chef extraordinaire Carin Gala. Carin is a passionate foodie and personal chef who loves to share her extensive knowledge about gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free cooking. Her food is vegan, but only secretly. She believes that the word vegan is often associated with dry, boring, bland food and she therefore makes vibrant, wholesome, fresh and seasonal food that is good for you and tastes delicious too!
Following is Carin’s advice for getting enough protein from plant foods:
Most people wonder what foods other than meat can possibly contain enough protein to sustain a healthy human body of all ages. I have never eaten meat or fish my whole life and have turned out to be 1.82m tall and feeling and looking quite healthy. So, from my experience I would say variety is the key. I make sure I eat each of the following vegan protein sources at different times:
Vegetables: Especially dark leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, spinach and parsley.
Wholegrains: Quinoa, amaranth, oats, spelt, buckwheat, millet and rice.
Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soy beans, peas, adzuki beans, mung beans, edamame beans, etc.
Seaweeds: Nori, dulse, wakame, kombu, arame and hijiki.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds and flaxseeds/linseeds.
Soy products: Tempeh, miso and tofu.
Sprouts: Mung, alfalfa, broccoli, fenugreek, lentils and quinoa.
Superfoods: Spirulina, chlorella, wild blue green algae, chia seeds, acai, wheatgrass powder and maca powder.
The other main ingredient for a healthy body is consistency. If you eat wholesome food once a week and junk the rest of the week, that is not going to sustain a healthy body. On the other hand, if you eat junk food once a week and the rest of the time eat fresh, ‘real’ food, there is a greater chance of nourishing your body with enough protein.
We have such an incredible variety of foods on offer so start experimenting with protein rich plant based foods to enlighten your daily life.
Below is Carin’s recipe for a pumpkin and red lentil coconut curry with spinach and chickpeas. I’ve made this recipe at home and it was truly delicious! Also, please check out Carin’s website: www.galaskitchen.com and find your way through tasty photos and upcoming events at www.facebook.com/galaskitchen. Bon appetite!
Pumpkin Red Lentil Coconut Curry with Spinach and Chickpeas
1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked until really soft- see instructions below.
1 cup red lentils
Half a kilo pumpkin diced and if needed peeled
1-2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 large onion chopped
5cm fresh ginger peeled and chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds lightly roasted and crushed, or just ground
1 tsp turmeric
1 large red chilli deseeded and sliced
1 tin thick organic coconut cream
1 cup water until desired consistency
1 bunch English spinach chopped to add at the end!
Salt to taste
1 tsp mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
Optional extra heat- 1 whole green chilli slit along the side and deseeded
1 tbsp coconut oil
Coriander for garnishing and lemon wedges to serve
Soak the chickpeas overnight, strain the water, add about 3-4 times as much water as chickpeas in a large pot, cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Scoop off the foam diligently until no more arises. Close the lid and cook until tender. This can vary greatly between chickpea types and freshness. I recommend putting at least 1.5 hours aside for this, while you potter around the house, or prepare the rest of your recipe ingredients.
Wash the red lentils in a sieve under running water.
Start the curry by heating the coconut oil in another large pot, add the onion and brown a little. Then add the ginger, garlic and chilli. After a minute, or so, add the spices and mix quickly for about 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, red lentils and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook 15min then add the chickpeas, cook further until pumpkin is just soft, then add the coconut cream and spinach and turn the heat off. The heat will cook the cream and the spinach enough. Season to taste with salt.
In a small frying pan heat more coconut oil and heat, once hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and chilli if using. Heat until popping, but not burning. Keep the fried green chilli as a garnish in the curry and drizzle the rest over curry and mix. Serve hot with fresh coriander and a wedge of lemon. I like to eat this with some basmati rice and a simple salad of cucumber and tomato with lemon juice and a papadamus for a grandiose meal.
Enjoy the feeling of warmth and nourishment this dish exudes in your body if even just for this moment.