But where do you get your protein?

by Amber Sperling

My name is Amber Sperling, I am a plant-based CF athlete. Being vegan in a paleo driven sport, I often get asked, “but where do you get your protein?” Which is why I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 sources of plant-based protein.

1. Quinoa – Quinoa, a seed, often mistaken for a whole grain is a great source of protein. This mighty seed provides all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. One cup of cooked quinoa is equivalent to 8g of protein. I cook quinoa just as I would rice, but it takes half the time to prepare.

Note: Quinoa is a complete protein. All other sources of plant-based protein need to be paired to form a complete amino acid profile.

2. Lentils – Lentils are a legume, rich source of protein, and blendable in many dishes. One cup of cooked lentils is equivalent to 18g of protein. I often mix lentils into my rice/quinoa dishes or added them to soups, and veggie burgers.

3. Beans – Black beans are by far my favorite bean. One 16oz. can of black beans contains 25g of protein. I usually eat black beans with a mix of quinoa or rice and lentils. I also like to create my own black bean burgers, top a spinach salad with black beans, blend chickpeas into hummus, or make a large pot of 5-bean chili in the winter.

4. Nuts and Seeds – Increase the nutritional value of any meal by sprinkling Chia, ground flax, or hemp seeds. These seeds are considered a superfood because they contain a great source of fiber, omega-3’s and protein. They are blendable in any dish as they don’t contain much flavor. I often add these seeds to veggie/bean burgers, soups, cookies, shakes and my oatmeal every morning. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains 3g of protein, two tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal contain 3g of protein, and three tablespoons of hemp seed contain 11g of protein. Nuts are another great sources of protein. There are great nut milks available to substitute for dairy milk, such as almond milk. Cashews can also be blended to create cheese.

5. Leafy Greens – Kale and spinach are my two favorite leafy greens and they are full of protein. I add them to my soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and smoothies. 100 calories of fresh baby spinach contains 12g of protein, more protein than a serving of beef. Another tip, if you prepare your salads in advance, sometimes the lettuce in the bowl begins to wilt. Add kale to the blend to increase the longevity of your salad.

6. Oats – I eat this grain for breakfast every morning. One cup of oats is equal to 12g of protein. I also use oats when making cookies, granola and protein bars. My typical breakfast consists ~21g of protein (1 cup of oats, 2 TBSP. chia seeds, 2 TBSP. flaxseeds, one banana and maple syrup or agave for sweetening).

7. Tofu – Tofu is a great meat substitute, half a cup of tofu is equivalent to 10g of protein! Tofu is flavorless, making it very blendable in any dish, and takes on any taste you desire with proper seasoning. There are some great tofu recipes online, i’ve made lasagna with tofu, and it made for a healthy substitute to the ricotta cheese which is a standard in most recipes.

8. Rice – Brown rice contains 5g of protein per cup. Rice pairs well with legumes. I add rice to my spinach black bean salads, and pair as a side to most dishes.

9. Broccoli – A cup of broccoli contains 2.6g of protein, and 31 calories. I add broccoli to my salads, stir fry, and enjoy steamed broccoli as a side to any dish.

10. Plant-based Protein Powder – Protein powder is always a great supplement! I prefer to use Ground Based Nutrition superfood protein, because it includes a blend of five plant based proteins (pea protein isolate, alfalfa protein, organic hemp seed protein, whole grain brown rice protein, and sacha inchi protein).

There are plenty of great sources of plant-based protein available. Just remember, combining vegetables will create a complete amino acid profile, making it a complete protein. I hope this list motivates you to reduce your consumption of animal products, and substitute with plant-based protein sources.

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6 Responses to But where do you get your protein?

  1. Recipe for Hemp Seed June 5, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    whoa, thanks so much for posting this! It is going to aid me when I buy Hemp Seed at the store! Very Mind Blowing!

  2. John Watterson June 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi Amber,
    Great list!! I personally don’t eat enough quinoa, and have yet to include chia or hemp into my diet. I love that you excluded the processed stuff. Too many people don’t cook. I’m glad to know that everything else on your list is always in my kitchen. Although for oats I was a cheerios nut. Now I have to find an alternative due to the beet sugar and GMO’s. I also have a habit of grabbing a tofurky italian sausage on the way out the door 30 grams of protein per serving! Asparagus is another favorite along with broccoli, and spinach.

  3. Taimagik June 14, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    Wow!! What a great post..
    Have you tryed fermented veggies?

  4. sonja June 26, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Awesome post!

    I would like to add that I read somewhere that the idea of plant protein being “incomplete” is a myth perpetuated by a book that was written years ago, and not scientifically supported. And that it has aided in perpetuating the myth that animals are the only source of “complete” protein, in addition to the meat and diary industries taking it and running away with it.

    Plant proteins have all of the essential amino acids to varying degree (some high in certain aminos than others, just like the animal sources of protein.)

    I can’t remember the name of the book or the author, but her theories have been debunked. she even came back years later and admitted to being wrong.

    Again, great post.

    You and your Plant Built team members are inspirational.

  5. Cristina October 1, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    Great list. don’t forget about buckwheat! Buckwheat has a lot more protein by mass than quinoa :)

  6. Tara March 25, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Great list! Just to clarify 100 calories of fresh spinach is 14 cups! Not many people would get more like 2g of protein eating a 2-cup spinach salad. I usually sautee or steam it — 2 cups of cooked spinach have 10g protein.

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