Pulses, nuts and legumes are a source of protein that do not come from animals. This makes them great for vegetarians and they’re pretty much the only protein options for vegans. (Apart from the small amount of protein found in starchy foods like rice, pasta and bread)
The difficulty with these types of foods that build muscle is that they are incomplete proteins. This means that they are lacking quantities of some essential amino acids needed for the muscle to make use of the non-essential ones contained in the foods to build muscle.
Not to worry! There is a way around this issue. All you need to do is use combinations of these foods to make them complete proteins. Ideally, you will combine two foods that compliment each other – The amino acids missing from one of the foods will be made up by the amino acids in the other to give you a complete protein.
Some examples of complimentary food combinations include …
- Rice with beans
- Beans on toast
- Nuts with vegetables
The other negative to pulses and nuts is that they usually contain carbs and occasionally fats (nuts can be especially fatty). This could cause a problem if you’re a vegan because there aren’t many purely protein options available in this food category.
If you’re worried about your carb and fat intake from these kind of foods that build muscle, then you can supplement your protein consumption with products like soya protein which ARE almost pure protein and not sourced from animals. (if you’re vegetarian then dairy, casein and egg protein supplements are also an option).
PEAS / ADZUKI BEANS / GREAT NORTHERN WHITE BEANS / BLACK BEANS / KIDNEY BEANS / PINTO BEANS / BROAD BEANS / HYACINTH BEANS / – ALL COOKED (BOILED)
Protein – 7.5 – 9 grams
Carbs – 19.5 – 25 grams
Fat – 0.1 – 0.5 grams
Calories – 115-140
CHICKPEAS – COOKED (boiled)
Protein – 9 grams
Carbs – 27.5 grams
Fat – 2.6 grams
Calories – 164
LENTILS – COOKED (boiled)
Protein – 9 grams
Carbs – 20 grams
Fat – 0.4 grams
Calories – 116
PEANUTS – DRY ROASTED
Protein – 23.7 grams
Carbs – 21.5 grams
Fat – 49.7 grams
Calories – 585
SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE / ISOLATE (per 30 gram scoop)
Protein – 16.5 Grams (concentrate) 24 grams (isolate)
Carbs – 9.5 grams (concentrate) 2 grams (isolate)
Fat – 0.5 Grams (concentrate) 1 gram (isolate)
Calories – 110
Overall, if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan it can be quite difficult to reach your required daily intake of protein (especially if you’re vegan). This is made more difficult due to the availability of complete proteins in this food group.
Vegans have limited choice but clever combinations of foods can solve this problem. The only danger to watch for is the high carbohydrate content also contained in these foods.
If your goal is to stay fairly lean and build muscle, these excess carbs might pose a problem. To avoid the extra carb calories I’d recommend investing in a supplementary soy protein isolate powder for vegans or a tub of Whey protein for vegetarians.
I hope that this article gave you some insight on the topic of pulses, nuts and legumes and their properties as foods that build muscle.
Keep eating your way to a healthier body!