What are the most common foods that come to mind when you think of protein? Meat, eggs, protein powder (it’s in the name!), seafood, and more are the typical go-to protein sources. If you exclusively rely on these foods for your protein needs, your overall health may suffer. While these food sources contain protein, they may not be high quality or rich with beneficial nutrients. As it turns out, there are many protein sources that people often overlook.
There are many surprising foods that pack a powerful protein punch. Most of these foods are plant-based, which is good news for anyone who follows a vegan or vegetarian diet. Not to mention, these overlooked protein sources are often easier for the body to absorb. When the body can easily process foods, it can absorb the nutrients a lot quicker. For example, your body can absorb the protein from hemp seeds more easily than the protein from red meat.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
No matter what diet you subscribe to, it’s always best to give your body the healthiest foods. The recommended daily allowance for protein is about seven grams per 20 pounds of body weight. If a person weighs 140 pounds, they would need 50 grams of protein each day. That said, someone who ways 300 pounds may not need to follow that rule, because too much protein can harm the body. People who eat too much protein, especially if it comes from red meat or foods with saturated fats, can increase their risk of kidney stones, colon cancer, and heart disease. Focusing on plant-based protein options may not carry these same risks, though.
Unique Protein Sources
Originating in the Mediterranean, artichoke hearts exhibit offer four grams of protein per cup. In addition to their protein content, they also offer vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. While fresh artichokes are the best options, it takes several whole artichokes to yield one cup of artichoke hearts. There are many jarred varieties that you can purchase in stores.
Lentils are legendary legumes that come in several varieties. The most common lentils are green or red, and you can treat them both the same when it comes to cooking. Additionally, almost all lentil varieties offer similar nutritional values. They typically contain 115 calories, 8 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein per one-half cup of cooked lentils. Add them to a stew, soup, or transform them into a filling side dish.
Surprisingly, seaweed is one of the best plant-based sources of protein, offering up nine grams per cup. While the protein amount varies between seaweed varieties, they generally offer similar amounts. There are many ways way to consume seaweed, including seaweed salads, in poke bowls, in regular salads, or in the form of nori sheets. Keep in mind that you’ll have to eat a lot of nori sheets to get one serving of protein. For all the cooks out there, consider blending nori sheets in dips, pestos, or dressings as a salt substitute.
Throughout the year, green peas are readily available in their frozen form. One cup of green peas offers up to eight grams of protein. The great thing about green peas is that you can add them to soups, stews, pastas, salads, or fried rice dishes. Keep in mind that these are not snow peas or sugar snap peas; these are green peas.
Everyone can benefit from adding more leafy greens to their diet. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, or chard are key components to healthy diets, as they offer vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. One cup of cooked spinach offers about five grams of protein. The best part about leafy greens like spinach is that they are low in calories!
Many people think quinoa is a grain because it’s advertised as an alternative to rice, pasta, and more. Quinoa is actually a seed that contains all the nine essential amino acids that the body needs. The body doesn’t make essential amino acids, so you need to obtain them from food sources. One cup of cooked quinoa contains eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber.