Increase Your Protein Intake With One Unexpected Dessert Ingredient

Protein does a lot for your body, and you need a good amount of it each day since your body can't store it. That's why protein is called a macronutrient. You need protein to help build bones, muscles, cartilage, and other parts of your body. Protein builds and repairs tissues and helps your body produce red blood cells to send oxygen through your body. Your body needs certain enzymes to help digest your food, so protein makes these enzymes. Athletes need protein to build and keep muscle while aiding recovery from tough workouts. People who are watching their weight can turn to protein to help them feel full and manage their weight (via Piedmont Healthcare).

If you want to add more protein to your diet, you don't need to eat massive amounts of steak or chicken at each meal. People who follow plant-based diets know you can get plenty of protein from beans. You can add beans to salads or soups, but you can also sneak them into desserts. If you're a fan of hummus, you might enjoy a chocolate-flavored hummus to get a protein-packed dessert. It starts with chickpeas.

Protein-rich desserts

A cup of canned chickpeas has 210 calories and 11 grams of protein. You'll also get in almost 10 grams of fiber. To make chocolate chickpea hummus, put the chickpeas in a blender and add about ¼ cup maple syrup or agave nectar. Add ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa, 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend all the ingredients, adding a little water if it's too thick (via Don't Waste the Crumbs). Try this chocolate dip with fruit or graham crackers as a sweet, protein-rich dessert.

Ambitious Kitchen also uses a can of chickpeas to make chocolate chip blondies. Blend the can of chickpeas, ½ cup of peanut butter (you can also try another nut or seed butter), ⅓ cup maple syrup (or agave nectar), ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Once blended, fold in ½ cup of chocolate chips. Spread the mixture into an 8x8-inch square pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares. If you don't feel like cooking the mixture, it also makes a great chickpea cookie dough dip.

Adding plant-based protein is healthy

If you eat meat, you probably already get enough protein. You need 0.34 grams of protein per pound of body weight to help your body function. That comes to about 51 grams — two portions of meat — for someone weighing 150 pounds. 

According to the British Heart Foundation, eating more protein than what your body needs doesn't pose as much of a problem if you get some of your protein from plant sources such as peas, beans, and lentils. Even if you're a meat lover, try going meatless one day a week to get the benefits of plant-based proteins.

Don't be tempted to eat vegetarian hot dogs and chicken nuggets, however. Many of these are heavily processed, and some of them have just as much saturated fat as meat. Also, food additives such as carrageenan can cause inflammation. Because some meat substitutes have added fiber and other nutrients, enjoy them in moderation (via The Beet). If you want more nutrients and added fiber, whole-food plant-based proteins such as chickpeas are better options.