Protein sources for the rare plant-based athlete
When it comes to nutrition, there are many ways to skin the cat. And while we tend to promote whole foods and carnivorous eating that includes a relative balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats with each meal, now and again we deal with vegetarian clients.
No judgment if you choose not to eat meat, but know this: It’s tough to be a healthy vegetarian. More specifically, it’s tough to get enough quality proteins as a plant-based athlete.
Registered Dietitian and owner of Nutrition Rx Jennifer Broxterman agrees: “Honestly, I see a lot of vegetarians get fat because they become junk food vegetarians. It is really hard to get enough good protein when you’re a vegetarian,” she said. “I do believe for optimum human body composition and health, we do better with meat.”
That’s not to say you can’t be healthy as a vegetarian, she added. It just requires a bit more effort, especially when it comes down to seeking out good protein sources.
Here are some tips for vegetarian protein sources:
1. Eggs, eggs, eggs:
Forget what your grandmother taught you about eggs and cholesterol. Eggs should be your best friend if you don’t eat meat. One egg contains 6 grams of protein (or one Zone Diet block if you’re into that).
Though processed soy should almost always be avoided, edamame is a better form of soy, and it’s high in protein (11 grams of protein in 100 grams of cooked edamame). It’s also an amazing source of fiber and of Omega 3s, which is difficult to acquire as a vegetarian.
3. Nutritional yeast:
Nutritional yeast is a complete protein (9 grams of protein per quarter cup). It’s great on salads or popcorn, and it tastes really, really good, too. It adds a richness to a salad, the same way cheese does. On top of that, it’s high in Vitamin B12, which is generally only found in animal products, so again, ideal for a vegetarian.
4. Nuts and seeds:
Though not complete proteins, nuts and seeds do contain protein and healthy fat. Pumpkin seeds and pistachios are especially good as protein sources. Pumpkin seeds contain have 29.8 grams of protein per 100 grams, while pistachios have 21 grams of protein per 100 grams.
5. Cottage cheese and Greek yogurt:
If your body does OK with dairy, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt are decent protein sources (certainly better than pounding an entire ring of Brie cheese or a block of cheddar). 11 grams of protein in 100 grams of cottage cheese, and 10 grams in Greek yogurt.
Though many are against legumes, if you’re a vegetarian, venturing into beans of all sorts, as well as chick peas (19 grams of protein in 100 grams), are probably going to help your protein intake. Vegetarian chili anyone?
7. Vegetarian protein supplement:
Though many supplements are highly processed and pumped with sugar, Broxterman recommends the Genuine Health Vegan Plus protein supplement as it’s high quality and not full of artificial sweeteners like many other brands.
Nothing wrong with being plant-based. Just do your research be smart about it!