Welcome to the world of plant-based nutrition, where health meets taste and every meal is an opportunity for nourishment. Whether you’re an athlete, a health enthusiast, or simply curious about plant-based eating, let’s explore three super-sources of complete protein (protein sources that contain all nine (9) essential amino acids that our body needs to build our muscles and tissues but can’t produce on its own).

As a plant-based ultra-marathon runner, health coach, and health and wellness researcher and professor, I make my health a priority and these three complete proteins are key to making that happen.

Boulder super-athletes Brenna Bray, PhD (left) and Krzysztof Danielewicz (right) choose quinoa, edamame, and hemp as their go-to superfood superpowers for fueling and refueling on ultra-days of mountain running and climbing, respectively.

Quinoa: The Trailblazer’s Treasure

Meet quinoa, the tiny seed with a mighty nutritional profile. As an elite ultra-marathon runner, I’ve relied on quinoa to fuel my record-breaking runs, like the Boulder Skyline Traverse. A half-cup serving of quinoa packs 140 calories25 grams of carbohydrates, 3.2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of complete protein, and 2 grams of healthy fats. This complete protein is also loaded with vitamins and minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, copper, B vitamins like folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Whether running, biking, hiking, or climbing, quinoa is your go-to for sustained energy on the trails and for replenishing your muscles post-adventure.

three full clear glass jars with lids

Left: Edamame goes great with nearly any vegetable variety. Center: Bray loves that quinoa and hemp are super-portable and can be consumed anytime, anywhere, even after an all-day adventure at the Great Sand Dunes. Right: Cooked quinoa can be easily stored in jars to create nutrition and delicious grab-and-go meal options.

Hemp: The Omega-Rich Super Seed

Hemp seeds are the unsung heroes of the plant-based world. Just 3 tablespoons offer 166 calories10 grams of protein, 15 grams of really good fats, and 1.2 grams of fiber. They’re a fantastic source of two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6), and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3), which are crucial for brain health and reducing inflammation. What’s more, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folate. Another huge benefit of hemp seeds is they’re easy to add into any meal, snack, or smoothie. They add a nice texture and extra protein and fats (that assists nutrition absorption) when added to any smoothie or sprinkled on oatmeal. They can just as easily be sprinkled on salads, soups, or grains like quinoa.

    bowl of vegetable salads

Hemp and edamame can easily be added into any smoothie or sprinkled on a bed of quinoa and veggies for a simple meal or snack option that provides a complete protein (full amino acid profile) and packs a nutritional power punch!

Edamame: The Legume with a Punch

Edamame (AKA soybeans) are a snack that punches above its weight. One cup of cooked edamame contains 224 calories15 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of fiber, and an impressive 18 grams of protein. It’s a complete protein and a flavorful addition to any meal that also packs a huge nutritional punch, with vitamins and minerals like B Vitamins folate, thiamine, and riboflavin, Vitamin K1, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and calcium.

And let’s bust a myth while we’re at it: the idea that soy products can disrupt your hormones is largely unfounded. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds similar to estrogen but not the same. When consumed in whole-food forms like edamame, the natural fiber helps regulate the absorption of these compounds, maintaining a healthy balance in your body.


The myth that soy products like edamame can disrupt hormones or make men grow boobs is just that – a myth. When eating its natural/whole-food form, the natural fiber in soy products like edamame acts as a buffer to soak up excess phytoestrogens in your GI tract, maintain a perfect balance in your body.

Combining these three protein superstars creates a PowerHouse Meal that’s perfect for the Boulder lifestyle. Remember, variety is not just the spice of life; it’s the key to unlocking a world of good nutrition. So if you’re new to these superfood superheroes: welcome!


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