One of the keys to forming long, lean, gorgeous muscles is not only rocking your Physique 57 workouts, but also refueling with healthy, nourishing foods. Protein is a powerhouse nutrient that delivers so many benefits for your beautiful body.
Research shows that protein builds muscle strength and lean muscle mass ¹ ², plus it helps your muscles repair and recover post-workout ³. It can also boost your metabolism thanks to the thermic effect. This means your body uses energy — and burns calories — simply by digesting protein. Protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to fat or carbs (20–35% compared to 5–15%) ⁴. Protein is also an essential nutrient for protecting your bones ⁵ and heart health ⁶.
When you hear the word “protein,” you probably think of animal proteins like chicken, fish, and eggs. But we also love plant-based proteins because they’re packed with antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. Plus, a plant-based lifestyle has been shown to protect heart health ⁷, help you feel lean ⁸, keep your brain sharp ⁹, and give you glowing skin ¹⁰.
We asked Maria Marlowe, a leading holistic nutritionist and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide, to share her five go-to plant-based proteins, why they’re so amazing for you, and her favorite ways to enjoy them. She even suggests some incredible recipes!
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to embrace a more plant-based lifestyle, you’ll love these delicious and energizing foods.
“My number one plant protein for smoothies is hemp seeds. They not only contain complete plant-based protein (about 10 grams per 3 tablespoons), but they are also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits and are especially beneficial post-workout to reduce soreness and enhance recovery,” Maria explains. “I prefer them in their whole form, as they maintain maximum nutrition and freshness compared to powdered protein. As long as you put them in the blender with your smoothie, they will break down and make it nice and creamy. I also add them to salads, warm cereal, or blend them into the tastiest vegan Caesar dressing.”
“Chickpeas are another favorite as they are so versatile. Put them on salad, bake them into crispy croutons or a crunchy curry chickpea snack, turn them into falafel, blend them into hummus, use the flour for flatbreads…the options are endless,” Maria says. “One cup provides a hefty 12.5 grams of fiber (hello regularity) and a whopping 14.5 grams of protein. This makes them filling and satisfying. They also provide a significant amount of iron (approximately 26% of the recommended daily intake per cup), which helps keep your energy high. Be sure to pair them with a vitamin C-rich food, such as lemon juice on your dark leafy green salad or bell peppers with hummus, to enhance iron absorption.”
“Another tiny seed that packs a nutritional punch! Aside from providing about 5 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber per ounce, they contain a variety of other nutrients, including anti-inflammatory omega-3s and stress-busting magnesium,” Maria shares. “Chia pudding is my favorite way to consume them. Top it with nuts and seeds for added protein.”
“This is a staple in my home, and I consume it once or twice a week. Four ounces of tofu contains about 12-15 grams of protein. If you can find organic fermented tofu, even better (fermentation adds probiotics and has the texture and taste of feta cheese),” Maria says. “Soy is a great source of isoflavones, which have been linked to a variety of benefits, from reducing wrinkles to improving brain health, to reducing the risk of heart disease and various cancers. Always choose organic tofu to avoid GMOs. When seasoned well, it’s incredibly flavorful, like this curry-dusted tofu.”
“Navy beans and other white beans like cannellini beans are incredibly nutrient-dense. A 1-cup serving provides 15 grams of protein and 19 grams of fiber, along with a significant variety of vitamins and minerals like folate, magnesium, and iron,” she explains. “I love them simply sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and turmeric, or I blend them into dips, sauces, and even homemade falafel and veggie burgers to hold them together.”