Known as ‘the building blocks of life’ proteins are an absolute essential in your diet. Inside your system they break down into amino acids, the function of which is to repair damaged cells and promote new cell growth.

Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, keeping you feeling fuller for a longer time on fewer calories, which is why they’re way up there on any weight-watcher’s diet plan.

Unfortunately the most common sources of protein, like dairy, eggs and meat, are also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Given that’s the case, switching to these plant-based proteins may be the smartest move you could make for your health.

  1. Nuts and peanut butter. There’s healthy fats and protein in all kinds of nuts, making them an essential for a plant-based diet, but if you’re watching your weight, stay away from almonds, cashews and pistachios, which are also high in calories. Roasted peanuts and pine-nuts are a healthier option. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, but check the label to see there are no additives like sugar or hydrogenated oils.

2. Green peas. Peas are one of the best sources of vegetable protein — a cupful contains 7.9 gms, just the same amount as that dreaded cup of milk. If a cupful of frozen or boiled peas sounds boring, whizz it in the blender with a little olive oil, fresh mint leaves, toasted nuts and parmesan cheese to make a great pesto.

3. Beans. The best thing about beans is the huge variety you can choose from and of course, the convenience of the canned ones which are as healthy as the fresh kind. Two cups of beans contain 26 gms of protein – the same as a Big Mac – and will leave you feeling guilt-free.

4. Leafy Greens. Though veggies don’t have as much protein as nuts and legumes, some do contain considerable amounts, and they also have the added advantage of  being loaded with antioxidants and healthy fibre. Add spinach or rocket to your salad, or a cup of chopped broccoli as a side to your meal to pack in a protein punch.

5. Seeds. Sunflower, melon, pumpkin, poppy and sesame seeds are all high in protein content and healthy fats. Sunflower seed kernels are the richest, yielding 7.3 gms of protein per quarter cup. Keep a jar of roasted seeds on your kitchen counter and office desk as an alternative, healthy snack.