21/04/2015 4:33 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

5 Muscle-Building Foods For Vegetarians

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Not Lou Ferrigno

If you're a vegetarian looking to gain muscle mass, don't let animal protein stop you from achieving your body goals.

"Most vegetarian foods provide carbs, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals in ample amounts, but not protein," says nutritionist Krupa Mhatre of Gold's Gym India. Mhatre has observed that several vegetarians who work out rely on protein supplements.

"But there there are several vegetarian foods, that are hugely underrated, even though they provide a good protein source to build muscle," she says.

While a leaf could be taken out of wrestling champion Sushil Kumar's dietary plans (the two-time Olympic medallist and his best buddy Yogeshwar Dutt are strict vegetarians), here are some more foods that put fitness-conscious vegetarians' minds at rest.

Here are five protein-rich foods that according to Mhatre will help gain muscle naturally.

  • Chickpeas
    "Chickpeas contain significant amounts of all essential amino acids except sulphur-containing amino acids, which can be complemented by adding cereals to the daily diet," says Krupa Mhatre, Nutritionist at Gold's Gym. While she does not recommend indulging in chole-bature all the time, hummus is an excellent alternative. According to this seven-year survey, the consumption of chickpeas/hummus was associated with higher intake of several nutrients of public health concern, including dietary fiber and potassium, as well as higher intakes of shortfall nutrients for some populations, including vitamins A, E, and C, folate, iron and magnesium. The study also shows that chickpeas also complement grains to form a source of complete proteins for vegetarians or low socio-economic individuals.
  • Quinoa
    Its popularity as a preferable grain to the quintessential wheat and rice is slowly catching on in India. It can be eaten in a variety of ways: toasted seeds over salad, as roti or even as a substitute for rice. Research by the Food and agriculture Organisation Of The United Nations showed that dehulled quinoa flour contains 15.6% protein. "It is rich in several micronutrients, especially potassium, iron, calcium, and riboflavin," says Mhatre. The study also showed that the quality of protein in quinoa matched that of the milk protein casein based on protein efficiency ratio, protein digestibility, and nitrogen balance.
  • Buckwheat
    Buckwheat is a rich source of starch, antioxidants, dietary fiber and trace elements as well as proteins. "In literature, the protein content of buckwheat grains has been reported to range from 12% to 18.9%," says Mhatre. Buckwheat grains constitute a high content of essential amino acids, which is important for people with proteins deficiency in the diet, shows this 2008 study. Mhatre recommends using buckwheat to prepare dhoklas, yogurt, salads, cutlets, and porridges.
  • Paneer
    Paneer or cottage cheese is commonly known for its fat content. "However you can make low fat cottage cheese out of low fat milk/ skim milk," says Mhatre. According to this 2014 study, cottage cheese protein content is recorded at 10.5 per cent. Another 2015 study also showed that eggs and cottage cheese have a similar satiating power because of their similar amino acid combination. Cottage cheese contain considerable amount of folic binding protein which enhances folic acid absorption.
  • Horsegram
    Popular in the south, this legume is usually employed to make dosas, gravies and pancakes. "It features a lower bulk density, and higher protein digestibility," says Mhatre. What makes it truely valuable is that it does not lose its rich protein content (20.60g per 100 gram) on being cooked, according to this study published by the International Journal of Scientific Research.

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