When it comes to maintaining your health, getting an adequate protein should be top of the list. Protein is critical for building muscle, boosting satiety, and maintaining metabolic processes — basically, it's important. But there's more to eating protein than just meat and beans: In fact, there are some foods high in protein that you probably don't typically consider when you're figuring out what to nosh on. Of course, red meat, jerky, eggs, and poultry are common, rich sources of protein (and delicious for all those carnivores out there), but there are a few surprising proteins, plant-based and other, that can be just as beneficial.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on establishing a healthy diet that is packed with protein to keep energy levels stable and the body working well. Plus, if you're active, as in you're hitting the gym regularly, it's especially important to recover with protein, as you're rebuild and repair muscles (getting the most out of those workouts). A good idea? Throw a few unusual sources of protein into a hydrating protein shake to refuel. Or, wake up right with a protein shake in hand for energy and alertness on your commute to work. Here are nine sources of protein that you don't normally think of, but should start adding to your grocery list.
1. Soba Noodles
Seems odd, but soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles) are actually pretty high in protein, so you can better repair damaged muscles post-workout and just stay fuller longer in the day, says Rebecca Gahan, Kick@55 Owner and Founder, over email with Bustle. Each cup has around 6 g of protein.
Here's another from Gahan: Spirulina, a type of seaweed (algae), is really good for you and is high in protein. Plus, it is a perfect complement to smoothies, as the neutral taste blends with any other types of flavor within the mix. One tablespoon will have roughly 4 g of protein.
3. Hemp Seeds
Gahan recommends eating hemp seeds, as they are high in protein and healthy fats (like omega 3 fatty acids). What's more, it boasts all 20 amino acids for a complete protein says Gahan. A hundred grams will have roughly 31 g of protein.
Quick bets are tuna and halibut. "But if you are feeling adventurist go with octopus. Three ounces of this seafood wonder has about 25 grams of protein," says Pamela Nisevich Bede, RD, sports dietitian with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition over email with Bustle. Not there yet? "Three ounces of steamed shrimp packs 19 grams high quality protein while 3 oz scallops contain close to 18 g," Bede says.
Soybeans are a great plant-based source of protein, and they make for a delicious snack. Or, throw in a smoothie, says Bede. "Edamame is also a top fave, like my favorite shake, one serving of these soybeans contains about 17 grams of complete protein, meaning these little green gems contain all of the nine essential amino acids your body needs," Bede says.
"Navy beans and lentils are versatile so add them to dishes like soups and use for salad toppers to boost your protein," says Bede. You can also roast chickpeas for a bit of crunch, too, or puree for a dip. "Remember that mild and nutty chickpeas pack a solid protein punch and blend easily to make a great hummus snack," says Bede.
Tired of Greek yogurt? Mix it up and go with cottage cheese or kefir. Bede recommends eating kefir, perhaps as a mid-day snack, post-workout refuel, or for breakfast. Or, go for cottage cheese with some fresh fruit or nuts. These types of dairy are really high in protein. 1 cup of cottage cheese will offer 25 g of protein, while 1 cup of kefir will have between 11 g to 14 g.
"Although they aren’t as high in protein as meat, vegetables are actually pretty rich in protein. For example, broccoli and spinach have three grams of protein for each 1/2 cup (cooked)," explains dietician Benjamin White, PhD, MPH, RD, LDN of Structure House over email with Bustle. Just mix with other sources, as veggies are not a complete protein.
"Seitan is a vegetarian meat substitute that packs a lot of protein. Each ounce has about seven grams of protein, which is the same as most meats," says White.
Try adding these types of protein sources to the diet for stronger muscles and greater stamina. Plus, it's always fun to test out different recipes and be adventurous with those taste buds.