6 Great sources of plant-based protein February 24 2015

posted by Nick Schäferhoff

I love working out. Seriously. When I'm not writing, drinking tea or building businesses, I can most often be found in the gym. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep at night because I am looking forward to trying out a new exercise the next day. No joke.

However, when people hear that I am a vegetarian and weight lifter, the usual question is “where do you get your protein?”. The opinion that it is impossible to be an athlete without eating meat is still widespread.

It is true, protein is important. The human body needs its building blocks - amino acids - for growth and repair. This is doubly true if you are physically active.

However, the notion that it is hard to fulfill your protein requirements without animal products is just not true. A number of protein-packed options are available for those who forgo meat or even eggs and dairy and they are as numerous as they are delicious:

  1. Tempeh: 19g / 100g

Tempeh are cooked soybeans which get infused with a special mushroom. The beans undergo a fermentation process and the result is a tight white cake. Tempeh has a very complex flavor which is reminiscent of some types of cheese. However, it easily picks up other food's flavor, making it very versatile.

How to eat it: I cut it into slices, fry it in a pan until crunchy and add soy sauce. These can also be added to sandwiches. Another options is to use tempeh cubes as “meatballs” in pasta sauce.

  1. Lentils: 24g / 100g

Lentils come in many different types and colors. The most well known are the red and green variety. They contain lots of fiber and  minerals as well as b-vitamins. Combine them with brown rice or quinoa to get a complete protein.

How to eat them: Lentils are usually eaten in soups or stews but can easily substitute for minced meat in any recipe as they provide a nice texture. If sprouted, they can be eaten raw for example in a salad.

  1. Quinoa: 15g / 100g

The next item on the list is a grain-like seed hailing from South America. It packs a high protein punch and contains all nine essential amino acids (the ones your body can not produce itself). Its fluffy texture and nutty flavor make quinoa a great addition to any meal and it cooks quicker than rice (12-15 minutes).

How to eat it: Substitute it in any meal where you would usually use rice. Can also be eaten cold and made into a salad. You can even find recipes for protein bars with quinoa online.

  1. Beans: 20-30g / 100g

These are another versatile protein source with many different options. Buy them dry and cook at home or opt for canned beans for convenience. I personally prefer kidney and pinto.

How to eat them: There are many ways to prepare beans. A simple but delicious recipe is to fry some onions, add beans, fill up with water and simply add tomato paste and some salt. Seriously, I eat that at least twice a week.

  1. Chickpeas: 20g / 100g

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are the main ingredients in some of my favorite foods. Besides protein, these little balls of wonder contain fiber, minerals, iron and zinc. They also pack a healthy dose of antioxidants. Most importantly though, they are delicious.

How to eat them: First there is falafel (Istanbul has an incredible falafel restaurant) which are a complete meal with a side of salad. The real magic is what happens when you blend chickpeas with oil, salt, pepper and tahini. The result is called hummus and is probably what they serve in veggie heaven.

  1. Hemp seeds: 30g / 100g

Don't worry, these won't get you a positive doping test. However, one of the most important things about hemp seeds is that apart from being high in protein, they also boast a nice fat profile. These seeds are one of the few plant sources of omega-3s and one tablespoon of hemp oil will provide the daily requirements of essential fatty acids.

How to eat them: Sprinkle them on a salad. Hemp seeds are crunchy and have a nice nutty taste. Also a good addition to homemade protein bars.