Protein powders can be a great way to boost your smoothie's protein content in a flash, but they're not for everyone.
Maybe you're confused by the many options available at your health food store, don't love the sometimes chalky texture, are price conscious, or simply prefer to eat whole foods.
Regardless of why and with what you want to use to bulk up your smoothie, there are plenty of ways to do it! Here are some of my favourite clean, whole foods, protein options.
Also known as hemp hearts, these little seeds add a slightly nutty taste to whatever they're in, and in addition to protein, offer a balanced intake of omega fatty acids. One tablespoon adds about four grams of clean protein to your smoothie, but you can add more than that if you want!
Hemp seeds are considered by many to be among the safest, most digestible, balanced, natural and complete source of protein, amino acids, and essential fats found anywhere in nature. They are also a source of zinc and iron.
Brazil Nut Butter
Move over peanut and almond butters, there's a new nut butter in town! Brazil nuts are the densest food source of bioavailable selenium, an antioxidant that has many important roles in our bodies. Add a tablespoon of brazil nut butter for a few extra grams of clean protein, and experience the benefits of the powerhouse profile of nuts!
Two large epidemiological studies, the Nurses' Health Study and the Adventist Health Study assessed the diets of more than 110,000 men and women in relation to coronary heart disease. Adjusting for other coronary heart disease risk factors, they linked the intake of five or more servings (five ounces) of nuts per week to a 35-50 percent reduction in risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death.
Most people don't normally think of oats as being a source of protein, but they offer about 5 grams of protein by the ounce. They are a very good source of fiber, especially beta-glucan, and are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oats have a well-balanced nutritional composition; by weight, raw oats are 66% carbs, 17% protein, 7% fat and 11% fiber. One serving (30 grams) of oats contains 117 calories.
Another benefit of oats is that they have a mild, if slightly nutty flavour, which means they can be added with little taste variation.
Greek yogurt makers add an extra step to their process so that excess water, lactose, and minerals drain out. What remains is a creamy, rich yogurt with less sugar, more carbs, and a tart taste. An average serving, depending on the brand, can have 12 to 17.3 grams of protein.
Greek yogurt is also packed with probiotics; healthy bacteria that can help boost your immune system and decrease stomach issues, such as diarrhea and pain. A serving of Greek yogurt has 18.7 percent of your daily value for calcium.
Pumpkin seeds yield an impressive 5 grams of protein per one ounce (126 calorie) serving, while also providing a great source of fibre and magnesium. 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 30 g or 54% of recommended daily allowance of protein.
Additionally, pumpkin seeds are a very good source of anti-oxidant vitamin E which prevents tissue cells from the free radical mediated oxidant injury, and are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. They also contain good amounts of essential minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
I bet when you had your first ch- ch- ch chia pet back in the 1980s you had no idea how incredibly healthy that little sheep's "wool" was! Chia seeds have emerged as a superfood in recent years, and it's no fad. A one ounce serving (2 TB) offer 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fibre, and 18% of your daily calcium needs. Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids - important for brain health, with nearly five grams in a one-ounce serving.
A word of warning - chia seeds, once hydrated, become a tiny bit gelatinous! So your smoothie will be too... which only helps it to go down easier, right?
Flax seeds went out of vogue a bit once chia seeds stepped into the spotlight, but they are still amazing in their own right! A couple of tablespoons of ground flax seeds adds an extra few grams of protein to your smoothie.
But protein is just the tip of the iceberg for this amazing food. One unique feature of flax is its high omega-3 fatty acid content; flax seeds are the top source of omega-3s! The primary omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseeds is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Another unique feature of flaxseed is its lignans. Lignans are fiber-like compounds, but in addition to their fiber-like benefits, they also provide antioxidant protection. They are also a solid source of calcium.
One ounce of roasted sunflower seeds contains 170 calories, represents a good source of protein (5 grams), fiber, zinc, folate and vitamin B6, and supplies about one-third of the Daily Value for vitamin E (the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant) and phosphorus.
Much of the calories in sunflower seeds come from fatty acids. The seeds are especially rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid. They are also a good source of mono-unsaturated oleic acid that helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good-cholesterol" in the blood. The seeds are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals; calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper are especially concentrated in sunflower seeds.
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