Adapted from an article by Cris Puscas, contributing writer at bookculinaryvacations.com
The hardest part about going refined sugar-free is the inevitable advent of sugar cravings. These bad boys kick in a few days after you rid yourself of the stuff, but can ultimately cause foggy memory, the inability to focus, irritability, and other classic symptoms of withdrawals.
What is a Craving?
Cravings are your body’s way of letting you know that you aren’t eating enough food… or enough of the right foods. They indicate that your body is seeking out a quick energy fix. The best way to prevent cravings from occurring is to go cold turkey on sugar, and substitute it out with high-fibre, high-protein foods that will keep you fuller for longer.
Studies have shown that adding protein to meals helps curb cravings by increasing levels of the brain’s reward hormone, dopamine. This means the brain is quicker to recognise the high-protein meal as a reward, and will remain ‘satisfied’ with it for longer than a low-protein meal, which will result in cravings a few hours later.
To help you curb your sugar cravings, we have put together a list of 9 delicious plant foods high in protein to enjoy:
Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 20 amino acids essential to life. It’s also gluten-free, has anti-inflammatory properties, and contains small amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
You can enjoy quinoa in both savoury and sweet dishes. Try it as a substitute for rice, in salads, or in vegan burgers. If you prefer to use it in sweet dishes, try it with some apple, cinnamon and yogurt for a delicious breakfast bowl.
Soy is probably the most well-known vegan and vegetarian-friendly protein source. There are still many myths going around about soy. While much of the discussion is still up for debate, it is important to note that soy may affect those who already have a thyroid condition.
Soy is processed into a variety of foods, the most common being tofu, tempeh, and soy milk. Half a cup of tofu offers 10 grams of protein! Try tofu in a stir-fries or salads or to substitute meat and/or cheese.
Oatmeal is celebrated as one of the most popular healthy breakfast foods, as it has three-times more protein than brown rice. It’s also a very good source of magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D. Oats can lower cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar under control and may even help you lose weight.
The easiest way to include them in your diet is to prepare overnight oats. Try this peanut butter banana chia oatmeal recipe for breakfast, or use oat flour in this interesting chickpea nuggets recipe.
Despite its name, buckwheat is related to rhubarb, not wheat. It contains 20% protein by weight and is gluten-free. It’s also rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B. The consumption of buckwheat has been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Buckwheat can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Use buckwheat flour as a substitute to wheat flour for higher protein bread. If you’re feeling experimental, you can whip up a buckwheat, apple, cranberry avocado salad.
Beans are cheap and very healthy. There are a lot of beans to choose from, all very high in protein. Chickpeas contain 9% protein by weight and are also high in fibre. They stabilise blood sugar levels, lowering the risk of diabetes. Lentils protect against breast cancer and boast 25% protein content by weight.
Master the classic hummus recipe, and then use it as a spread in wraps or on salads. You can also make very tasty black bean hummus or beet hummus, and lentils are a great addition to any soup.
6. Green Peas
Peas offer 10% protein by weight, and a lot of health benefits. They protect against stomach cancer, boost the immune system, contain vitamins C, E and K, as well as some Omega-3 fatty acids.
The easiest way to use peas is to add them to rice dishes or soups. Try this vegan mushroom risotto that is tasty and easy to make. If you don’t like the texture of the peas, you can turn them into pesto and make this pea pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and arugula.
7. Leafy Greens
While vegetables don’t come close to the protein content of nuts and beans, eating a variety of them will add some crucial but difficult-to-find amino acids into your diet. Raw spinach offers 2.1 grams of protein per serving, while a cup of broccoli gives you 8.1 grams.
Try these vegan broccoli fritters when you want to spice up your lunch or dinner. If you’re not a fan of broccoli, then try this spinach avocado dip.
Artichokes are a common occurrence in Italian cuisine. A cup offers 8 grams of protein and they also contain vitamin C and magnesium. Artichokes have antioxidants which may prevent cancer and they help detoxify the liver and the digestive system.
If you haven’t had any before, try this simple roasted fennel and artichoke hearts recipe. If stuffed pasta is more up your alley, try this spinach artichoke dip stuffed shells recipe.
9. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds offer 17g of protein per 100 g and also come with a lot of health benefits: they help fight cancer, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and lower the risk of diabetes.
If you like sweet treats and are seeking a healthier option, then try these no-bake chia energy bites or this basic chia seed pudding.
Cris is a contributing writer at BookCulinaryVacations.com. Passionate about the Mediterranean’s food and nations, she is always on the lookout for new delicious and healthy vegan recipes to try.