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.
NUTS AND SEEDS
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or book online at bookadietitian.ca. All in-store group events and presentations have been cancelled until further notice.