Soy: A Great Plant Protein for Your Muscles

PHOTO: KELLY JONES, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

While a recent Stone Soup post highlighted the versatility of tofu, it also is important to note soy’s nutritional adequacy as a replacement for animal proteins. It is evident that the amount and quality of protein we eat matters not just for athletes looking to maximize muscle repair, but also for aging adults.

Soy is a plant-based source of protein that can provide enough amino acids and protein for muscle recovery after exercise. It also contains a relatively high amount of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid. Research suggests leucine plays a key role in triggering an anabolic response after exercise, but it may be hard to obtain in adequate amounts from other plant foods.

Whether vegetarian or not, give tofu a try, starting with this recipe for breaded ginger tofu tenders. 


Breaded Ginger Tofu Tenders

Serves 8 with a serving size of 2 tenders

Ingredients

  • 2 15-ounce packages extra firm tofu
  • ⅓ cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne, optional
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ginger spread*
  • ½ tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Drain and press tofu.
  3. Combine almond meal, flaxseed, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne in a bowl and pour onto large plate.
  4. Cut tofu into 8 equally sized pieces. With a small baster brush, apply the ginger spread evenly on each piece of tofu before pressing into the dry mixture to coat.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the tofu pieces on it.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then flip tofu pieces and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  7. Serve in a sandwich or as a protein source with any balanced meal that includes a vegetable and starch.

*NOTE: Ginger spread is a mix of ginger and sugar and adds a bit of sweetness to balance the spice, as well as the sticky texture that helps the coating adhere to the tofu. The product can be found at most natural foods stores.

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Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a sports dietitian for collegiate and professional athletes, as well as a media spokesperson and consultant. She provides practical performance nutrition resources at KellyJonesNutrition.com to fuel the body and mind. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Youtube.