A blog by runners. For runners.

Vegan and vegetarian sources of protein

As a vegetarian, with a regular running and yoga regiment, one of the questions I’m often asked is where I get my protein. Many believe that because I don’t eat meat and very little dairy that I must be lacking in this vital macronutrient, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Many plant-based foods are great sources of protein, and according to the USDA, protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods.

Why is protein is important to the body?

Protein helps to build and maintain muscles and bones, regulate fluid balances, and aids the immune system against foreign substances like viruses and bacteria. It’s recommended that women and men over 19 get 46 and 56 grams per day, respectively. However, these are rough guidelines; there is a calculation that can determine your specific needs based on weight and activity level. It’s good to note that endurance and strength resistance athletes often require more.

Best sources of vegan protein

Since protein is so important to the body it shouldn’t be overlooked in our meal planning, but that doesn’t mean that we need to add chicken breast to everything we eat.

Here are some of the best sources of vegan protein:

Quinoa: This is a vegetarian and vegan dream food. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup, a million different uses, and is considered a complete protein, meaning that it has all the essential amino acids that we need. I loved it so much I named my personal blog after it: Quinoa, Kale, and Exhale.

Lentils: Be still my heart, little lentils. One cup of lentils offers 18 grams per cup. My go-to recipe is a big bowl of lentils, with a little rice, some steamed vegetables, olive oil, vinegar and salt for a filling, hearty post run dinner. Red lentils are also quick cooking, usually only needing about 10 minutes on the stove.

Beans: With so many varieties you can pack on the protein, and extra fiber, without getting bored. Kidney, pinto, black beans and chickpeas all have between 14-15 grams per cup. Make a three-bean salad, some homemade hummus, or a bean burrito to reap the benefits.

Nuts and nut butters: Many nuts like peanuts, almonds, and cashews each have 9 grams per 1/4 cup. Two tablespoons of peanut butter will also give you the same amount. Add some peanut butter to your morning smoothie or snack on some trail mix before you head out for your afternoon run. It doesn’t take much to add up to a 1/4 cup, so watch out, as nuts can also be high in fat.

Non-dairy milk: Soy and hemp milk are great alternatives to cow’s milk, each having about 8 grams of protein per cup, equal to that in regular milk. Add soy or hemp milk to cereal, into your coffee or anywhere else you might use cow’s milk.

Tofu: Tofu is a great source of protein with 20 grams per 1/2 cup. Heat crumbled tofu in a skillet with some olive oil, salt, chile powder and cumin as filling for tofu tacos. Chop it into cubes and saut