Legumes, nuts and seeds
Vegetarian and vegan-friendly proteins
Legumes (also known as pulses), nuts and seeds are one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans, but they can benefit everyone.
If you don't eat meat, fish or other animal products, legumes, nuts and seeds are a vital source of protein iron and zinc. But don't discount them as healthy protein sources even if you do.
Some successful athletes and sports stars only eat plant proteins.
For meat-eaters, plant proteins like these can add variety to your diet, which is vital for good heart health.
Legumes, nuts and seeds are also practical protein sources. They store well in the cupboard plus they're versatile foods that you can add to a multitude of dishes.
What are legumes?
Legumes (also known as pulses) include; split peas, all beans (e.g. baked beans, butter beans, kidney beans, soybeans, broad beans), chickpeas and lentils. Technically, the 'pulse' is the dried seed, but the terms are often used interchangeably.
Tinned varieties are quick and easy additions to a meal, saving precious time. Make sure you go for no added salt varieties, or rinse and drain them well before adding to dishes.
They are not only a great source of plant protein, but they also have a low glycaemic index (GI), which means they can help you feel full for longer. Plus legumes are great sources of fibre and low in fat. Try to include them twice a week as part of a varied diet.
Tips for eating legumes
- Add legumes to soups, casseroles, salads and meat sauces to extend the meal and add extra texture and flavour. This means you can use less meat or no meat, which makes the dish lower in fat and cheaper.
- Baked beans make a great snack or breakfast option on grainy toast. Choose the reduced or no added salt varieties.
- Add beans or chickpeas to salads or pasta and soups.
Nuts and seeds
For a hit of the healthier fats, add some nuts and seeds into your diet every day. Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious and provide protein, vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds are good sources of unsaturated healthy fats. These healthier fats help to prevent heart disease.
Regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood and does not lead to weight gain. So including nuts and seeds in your diet is great for your heart health.
Eating more nuts and seeds
- Try to include some plain unsalted nuts and seeds in your meals every day. A serve of nuts or seeds is 30 g or a small handful.
- Nuts make a great snack, keep a small container in your desk drawer. Choose plain, unsalted, unroasted varieties.
- Look for peanut butter or other nut butters made without added salt and sugar.
- Try tahini (sesame seed paste) in a homemade salad dressing
- Include nuts or seeds for a nutritious addition or topping to a meal.
- Add almonds or sunflower seeds to a salad, breakfast cereal or use cashews instead of chicken in a vegetable stir-fry.
- Try a handful of almonds or linseed sprinkled over reduced fat yoghurt for a great snack.