5 Surprising Sources Of Protein To Try This Season


Unexpected foods that we already love turn out to be high in protein. (Photo: Romulo A Yanes)

Fact: There is no life without protein. Every cell in our bodies contains protein, and we need it in our diet to make new cells and repair old ones. But while we all know cooked lean poultry is a great source of the nutrient, here are five other surprising foods that really pack a protein punch.

Quinoa: You keep seeing this superfood showing up on shelves and restaurant menus, but did you know that quinoa contains 8 grams of protein in each cooked cup?

“Not only does that equal 16 percent of your daily protein needs (based on a 2,000-calorie diet), but it is a complete protein—meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids,” says Los Angeles nutritionist Alyse Levine M.S., R.D. “It’s also a good source of fiber—packed with vitamins and minerals—and it contains flavonoids: compounds that have been shown to decrease risk for cancer and coronary heart disease.”

As for how to prepare the nutritious grain—and what to eat it with? “Quinoa’s versatility and subtle flavor allow it to be paired with almost anything,” Levine says. “To prepare, add 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Top your favorite salad with it or mix in veggies, beans, nuts, and dried fruit. The options are endless! A winning combo: quinoa, roasted garlic, tomatoes, and spinach. Voila! Dinner is served.”

Related: The 10 Healthiest Foods to Have in Your Kitchen


(Photo: Romulo Yanes)

Edamame: “Good news of the day: Your favorite sushi restaurant appetizer actually contains 17 grams of protein per cup, which is 34 pecent of your daily need,” Levine says. “Edamame, besides containing a generous portion of protein, is filled with polyunsaturated fats, which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, 8 grams of fiber in a single cup serving, and a rich array of vitamins and minerals—especially manganese which is essential for bone health and may help reduce symptoms of PMS.”

Greek yogurt: With all the attention it’s recently been receiving, you’ve probably already fallen in love with Greek yogurt. Good thing it’s good for you.

“It has about 20 grams of protein or 40 percent of your daily need in just 1 cup,” Levine says. “Greek yogurt is more concentrated than regular yogurt, which accounts for its elevated content of protein and other nutrients. This translates to increased levels of probiotics: helpful microorganisms that provide intestinal immune support and help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal disease such as irritable bowel syndrome. On top of that, the yogurt is an optimal source of calcium, which can help ward off osteoporosis and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.”

For added flavor? “Add fruit, jam, granola, or honey for an easy and delicious breakfast,” Levine recommends. “Plain Greek yogurt is also a healthy replacement for sour cream and adds richness to mac and cheese, dips, and sauces.”

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Navy beans: “Black or pinto? How about navy?” Levine suggests. “Navy beans lead the way in protein content, packing 16 grams or 30 percent of your daily value in one cooked cup. They also contain significant amounts of magnesium and folate, which work as a team with fiber to decrease the risk of heart attack. These healthful beans replenish iron stores and serve as a complex carbohydrate, which translates into lasting energy and stabilized blood sugar levels. Lastly, they contain vitamin B1, which has been shown to keep Alzheimer’s at bay.”

How to cook ‘em? “Simmer 1 cup dried beans in 3 cups water for an hour to an hour and a half,” Levine says. “Navy beans have a mild taste and can be used wherever you would normally use any other bean: in burritos, soups and stews, salads, and so on. Add a tasty twist to your sandwich by blending cooked navy beans with olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices to create a spread.”


(Photo: Romulo A Yanes)

Sun-dried tomatoes: While not as protein-rich as the navy bean, they contain 8 grams of protein per cup, which is 16 percent of your daily value. “Half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes contains a quarter of your daily potassium recommendation (a mineral essential for nerve communication) and 13 percent of your magnesium intake, which is important for the support of cell, DNA, and bone structures, energy production, and assistance in absorbing various other nutrients,” Levine says. Plus, the bright red fruit “adds color, sophistication, and tang to pastas, salads, and sandwiches. For a simple and flavorful Italian dish, add pine nuts, spinach, garlic, and, of course, sun-dried tomatoes to pasta with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.”

What are some of your favorite sources of protein?

By Faith Cummings 

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