The Colchester Wire

Getting to the heart of plant-based proteins


It’s not just your Valentine’s Day card that has a heart this February.

February is Heart Month, so it’s an especially good time to focus on the importance of cardiovasc­ular health and reducing the risk of heart disease. One way to reduce your risk of heart disease is by consuming a diet lower in saturated fats and cholestero­l — and incorporat­ing plantbased protein foods into your diet can help with this goal.

Why do we need protein in our diet? It’s important for cell growth and repair, hormone developmen­t, muscle function and more. Canada’s Food Guide recommends filling one quarter of your plate with protein-rich food.

When we think of protein, it’s often animal-based proteins that first come to mind — meat, fish, eggs and cheese. While these foods can certainly be part of a healthy diet, there are benefits of swapping them for their plant-based counterpar­ts.

Plant-based proteins can be divided into three categories:


These include beans, chickpeas, lentils and split peas. They are not just high in protein, but high in fibre, too. Fibre can help lower blood cholestero­l levels, furthering the heart health benefits.


Some examples of nuts and seeds include almonds, pumpkin seeds and nut butters. They offer different nutritiona­l benefits, but all are a great source of protein and unsaturate­d fats. For example, hemp seeds and walnuts are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which also has a beneficial impact on heart health.


This includes tofu, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and edamame. In addition to the protein they provide, these foods may improve heart health by controllin­g blood pressure and reducing blood cholestero­l.

So, how can you incorporat­e plant-based proteins into your diet? If you’re new to the plant protein world, start by substituti­ng half the meat on your plate with an alternate protein source.

Try mixing TVP with ground beef when making burgers or adding lentils to your favourite soup recipe. Introduce your family to meatless Mondays — one night a week that encourages you to switch up your meatbased meals with plant-based alternativ­es.

Some easy plant-based protein substituti­ons include swapping meat with black beans for tacos or replacing the chicken in stir-fry with tofu or edamame. Try sprinkling hemp seeds on yogurt, including nut butters in oatmeal or snacking on roasted chickpeas.

Including plant-based proteins can improve heart health and can also reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. The benefits of plantbased proteins don’t stop there, either. Many are less expensive than animal-based protein choices and the cultivatio­n and harvesting has less of an impact on the environmen­t than animal products.

Consider adding a plantbased protein to your cart the next time you’re grocery shopping. It may just help your health, your wallet and the environmen­t. What’s not to love about that?

Jenelle MacIsaac is a registered dietitian at Atlantic Superstore locations in Amherst, Truro and Elmsdale. Do you have a nutrition health goal in mind? Contact her by phone at 902-476-0942, e-mail or book online at bookadieti­ All in-store group events and presentati­ons have been cancelled until further notice.

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