Meat, fish and milk aren’t the only sources of healthy protein. Here
are some other foods that are surprisingly protein-high.
Along with vegetables, fruit, healthy grains and fats, protein is an essential
part of a good diet. Protein builds muscles, strengthens bones, protects
against chronic diseases, and maintains overall health. When most people
think about protein, it’s the traditional sources like chicken,
beef, fish and eggs that usually come to mind. But there are other sources
of protein to consider, says Julie Crane, RD, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian
and certified diabetes educator at
“It's important that people get enough protein in their diet,
but they don’t necessarily need to have meats in every meal,"
says Crane. "Not all high-protein foods are equally healthy, either.
You have to take into account the whole ‘protein package,’
weighing the types of fats or salts, for example, that come with that
A six-ounce steak has a lot of protein, about 40 grams worth, but it also
delivers 12 grams of saturated fat – more than 60 percent of one’s
recommended daily intake. “The recommended daily allowance of protein
is 46 grams per day for adult women and 56 grams per day for adult men,”
says Crane. “Fortunately there are a variety of foods that can meet
your nutritional needs while helping you cut back on your meat consumption.
Here are five foods that make it easier to get enough good-quality protein
without relying on meat:
Research shows that getting a good amount of protein at
breakfast time helps you stay energized and feeling full longer. Surprisingly, the
humble bagel delivers 7 to 10 grams of protein, while delivering little
fat. Choose multigrain bagels and skip the cream cheese to get the best
protein / fat / carb ratio. If you must have a topping, a smear of avocado,
smoked salmon or crushed berries will add even more protein and make your
bagel sing with flavor!
Speaking of avocados, protein-rich
avocado is one of nature’s super-foods. That 2 grams of protein per 100
grams of fruit also comes with healthy fats, vitamins A, C, E, B6, manganese,
potassium, riboflavin and folate– and it’s so easy to eat.
Avocado is not only a great add-on to other dishes, it makes a delicious
warm entrée all by itself. Slice a ripe avocado lengthwise and
drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh
cracked pepper for a satisfying, protein-packed green “fillet.”
Half avocados can also be stuffed with shrimp and anchovies for a leaf-less
potatoes with all the wrong things: French fries, potato skins heaping with bacon
and sour cream, potato chips – but a medium potato contains 3-4
grams of healthy protein, so they can be enjoyed as part of a healthy
diet. Baking potatoes brings out their natural flavors, so they don’t
need much more than a pinch of salt to satisfy. For a more luxurious presentation,
spoon a small amount of Greek yogurt on top (also a good source of quality
protein), sprinkle with chopped green onion, crushed nuts, chili powder
or dried berries.
Fresh or frozen, bright greenedamame packs 18 grams of protein into every cupful, and is loaded with vitamins
and omega-3 fatty acids. These soybean pods make an irresistible snack,
a perfect replacement for chips or other unhealthy munchies. For a spicy,
savory side dish, boil edamame until tender and blend with olive oil,
chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and a squeeze of lime juice. Shelled
edamame also adds protein, color and flavor to any rice dish.
Want a super-protein smoothie? Try adding spirulina powder. This dried
algae is exceptionally high in protein, providing 60 grams per cup, and
provides an array of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its
earthy, seaweed-like flavor can be balanced out by adding banana, pineapple
and orange juice, but the result will always be a deep green drink! Spirulina
can also be combined with pureed dates, nuts, coconut and chocolate for
a truffle-like energy ball.
“It's important to eat the right kind of proteins, in the right
amounts, to get optimal health benefits. Incorporating more varied,
plant-based proteins is a great start to building a healthier, well-balanced diet,” says
Crane. “For those thinking about becoming a vegetarian, or for people
who simply want to eat fewer animal products, it’s a good idea to
discuss any new diet plan with one’s doctor or dietitian.”
What are your favorite proteins? Share your comment below.