Great Vegan Protein Sources

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The first thing that comes to mind when you think of those Bad Boy Pistons teams of the late 80s and early 90s is grit, flying elbows and a lot of cheap shots. Yep, lots of those. What doesn’t come to mind is veganism, a lifestyle that promotes abstaining from all animal products—no meat, no dairy, no leather goods. Even honey appears on the banned substances list for vegans.

Although I’m assuming that Bill Laimbeer has already eaten a few rare steaks by the time I finish typing this sentence, and Kim Jong-un has probably treated Dennis Rodman to a variety of large game, former Bad Boy, John Salley, is a big proponent of the vegan lifestyle. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Salley discusses the benefits of going vegan, and how today’s crop of pro ballers would stand to gain a lot from ditching all things animal.

 Photo: Mercy For Animals
 

Salley’s proselytizing is all well and good, but can you really function as a professional athlete, or even as someone who simply wants to maintain a decent physique, without consuming high protein foods like meat and eggs? We’ve always been told that real men eat steak (whatever that means) and that a post-workout chocolate milk can really help with our recovery (at least that’s what the commercials say). Well, it turns out that although it’s vital to consume protein in order to build and repair our muscles, there are vegan friendly foods that are filled with the good stuff. Here are five such foods.

 Photo: HealthAliciousNess
 

Nuts
A handful of nuts (I tried to think of a better way of phrasing that, I really did) provides a great post-workout snack and is filled with protein, as well as good fats and fibre. While cashews (not really a nut, but whatever) peanuts and hazelnuts are all great protein sources, experts say that the almond is king when it comes to nutritional value. Almonds are packed with protein—one cup containing up to 20 grams—and are very low in fat. As a bonus, nuts also go great with raisins, blueberries and cranberries, all fruit that are rich in antioxidants and may help lower the risk of heart disease.

 Photo: Olle Svensson
 

Avocado
Although most people consume avocados in a slightly less than healthy form—as guacamole for nachos—the favourite fruit of Mexico, when eaten on its own or in a salad, is a great way to get your protein fix. Avocados contain healthy fats that can promote good cholesterol, carontenoids that give your body a good dose of Vitamin A, and they can help maintain the health of your eyes—pretty important if you’re playing ball at the local Y.

Photo: net_efekt
 

Quinoa
If you haven’t already eaten quinoa, you’ve probably heard of it from one your yoga-practicing, health food-loving friends. But don’t dismiss the stuff, it’s really good for you and it tastes great. Originally cultivated in South America, quinoa looks like a grain—a lot like couscous, really—but it’s actually a gluten-free pseudo cereal, making it easily digestible. It’s more closely related to tumbleweed than it is to rice or wheat…delicious. No, really, it does taste great, and it’s full of protein, making it a true super food.

 Photo: WhitneyinChicago
 

Chickpeas
All beans, in addition to ensuring that you have your work elevator all to yourself, are a great source of protein. One of the best as far as protein goes, however, are chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. One cup of chickpeas contains 39 grams of protein and there are endless great ways you can consume them: with onion and peppers as part of a salad, with black beans as a replacement for meat in some John Salley-approved tacos, and of course, in that great dip called hummus.

 Photo: Key Foster
 

Tofu
In many East Asian countries tofu is a staple, uncontroversial part of the culinary tradition. In the west it might be the most divisive food item around—taking over from quiche as the thing that ‘real men’ don’t eat. But while a block of tofu (coagulated soy milk for the uninitiated) may not have once been walking around on four legs, it’s packed full of protein nonetheless—half a cup contains 10 grams. Aside from the question of masculinity, many people’s issue with tofu is that it tastes bland. While that maybe true in its raw form, tofu can be prepared and cooked in a seemingly infinite number of ways—baked, fried, steamed, scrambled—and it soaks up whatever flavours you choose to add to it. Think of tofu as an edible canvas waiting for you to paint on the flavour.

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