Growing Protein-Rich Foods In Your Garden
Photo by Siamak Djamei via Unsplash.com
We all know the importance of having a balanced diet. But in today’s busy world it is not always easy to make the right choices when it comes to food and this can leave us deficient in a number of important vitamins and minerals, as well as the essential proteins we require to keep us in good condition. Growing your own food is a great way to keep better control of the health of you and your household, as well as being kind to our planet. By growing the right crops in your garden, you can help make sure that you have access to a constant supply of fresh, organic produce. You can grow a wide range of crops to make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and proteins you require. Here are some tips to help you ensure that you grow enough of the correct crops to get the protein you require for a healthy diet:
” A ‘complete’ protein source is one which provides all these essential amino acids. All meat, seafood, eggs and dairy are compete protein sources – but you can still get enough of all the essential amino acids through a vegetarian or vegan diet.”
Plants Which Offer a ‘Complete’ Protein Source
As you may or may not recall from high school science lessons, protein is made up of amino acids, nine of which must be obtained from the food we eat. A ‘complete’ protein source is one which provides all these essential amino acids. All meat, seafood, eggs and dairy are compete protein sources – but you can still get enough of all the essential amino acids through a vegetarian or vegan diet. Even if you are unable to rear your own livestock or keep any animals, you can still make sure your home-produced diet is rich in protein – doing a service to our planet by eschewing meat and dairy while you are at it. Complete protein sources include quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed and soy beans.
Quinoa is relatively easy to grow at home and the good news is that it will grow in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is related to chard and beetroot and it will produce a quantity per plant, so require far less space to grow than common grains like wheat. Space your quinoa seedlings around 2ft apart and expect the plants to grow almost 6ft tall (when they will require staking). Quinoa can be used to replace rice in a wide range of recipes.
Combining Whole Grains and Pulses
It is easier than you might imagine to get all the amino acids you require in a vegan diet. Though most plant-based protein sources are not ‘complete’, you can easily combine two or more vegetarian foods to make sure you are getting all the amino acids. One easy to remember combination that gives all a combined complete protein is a grain, such as rice, wheat, or any other wholegrain, plus a pulse such as any peas, beans or lentils. Substitute the grain for quinoa and you are doubling up on some amino acids for a super protein-rich meal.
No matter what your climate, you will be able to grow some peas or beans. Garden peas, broad beans and a variety of different green beans are amongst the easiest legumes to grow. There is also the added benefit that legumes (along with organisms on their roots) take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, where it can be taken up by the plants that need it to grow. There are legumes for every climate zone – broad beans are tolerant of colder climates, while pigeon peas are particularly useful for areas of heat and drought. Some beans and peas are eaten fresh and green, while others are dried or preserved for later use. By preserving crops for later, you can have a more consistent source of protein from your garden all year long.
Other Good Plant Sources Rich in Protein
Potatoes are one vegetable that is surprisingly rich in a number of amino acids. Anyone can grow potatoes and they are probably one of the best vegetables for beginner gardeners to try. Combine it with a range of other sources of other amino acids and it can help you reach your protein requirements for each day. Leafy greens are also excellent sources for certain amino acids. Kale and broccoli are fantastic for cooler climates, for example, while collard greens and amaranth are fantastic leafy greens for hotter climes.
Wherever you live, growing as wide a variety of leafy greens and other vegetables as possible, as well as grains, pulses and nuts, will help you to make sure you eat a healthy and protein-rich diet that does not cost the earth.
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