Everything you need to know about plant-based proteins

The term “protein” for most people means “meat”. But what if you’re trying to cut down on or avoid your meat consumption?

Protein isn't restricted to meat

This food group includes much more than meat, fish and poultry. Sources of protein also include eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.

According Eat for Health, an initiative by the Australian Government, "this food group also provides a wide variety of other nutrients such as: iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins, especially B12, and essential fatty acids."

"The iron and zinc in animal foods is more easily absorbed by the body than in plant foods such as nuts, seeds and legumes/beans. However, the vitamin C found in fruit and vegetables will help the absorption of iron from these non-animal foods."

Learn more about protein and nutrition here.

Diversity is the key!

Even if you're avoiding meat, there are lots of options among the plant-based protein choices. Almonds, pine nuts, walnut, macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, peanut, nut spreads, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, lentils, chickpeas, split peas… the list goes on!

READ THIS NEXT: Handy hints for developing a healthy plant-based diet

Go easy on processed meat replacements

Rick Miller of the British Dietetic Association warns that meat replacements such as "veggie roasts" can be high in salt. "The best vegetarian proteins come from tempeh, tofu and beans," he says.

Plant-based milks

Non-dairy milks came about to accommodate people who are lactose intolerant or have vegan dietary restrictions, but people are refraining from drinking milk these days for ethical and environmental reasons as well.

Cattle pollute with their burping (seriously), so reducing your dairy products consumption can help cut CO2. However, if you are planning to switch to a non-dairy alternative, you may want to seek nutritional advice first. People often confuse something referred to as 'better for the environment' as 'better for their health' too.

Read more about which milk alternatives are good for the planet

Taste test

Many people will try tofu (or another plant-based protein) once and claim that "they don't like it". Sadly, most people's first exposure to this awesome foodstuff is rubbery bits of sadness plopped on top of a noodle dish.

Just like meat, tofu can be cooked badly. Therefore, it's worth getting to know how best to cook up this protein.

Personal favourites:

-Dust firm tofu in a light coating of flour and fry until golden. Add this to Pad Thai for deliciousness and nutrition.

-Stir-fry firm-silken tofu in sweet chilli sauce. Add veggies and serve on top of rice.

-Uncooked firm tofu in Bronte's legendary Sesame tofu, kale and carrot salad with peanut dressing

READ THIS NEXT: Lock, stock and grow your own vegetables with these incredible backyard farm kits

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