April 16, 2024

Wellness Wednesday: Surprising Sources of Protein

Explore sources of protein beyond just meat and dairy.

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients. It is essential for cell formation, growth and repair within our bodies. When we think of sources of protein, animal products may come to mind: meats, seafood, dairy and eggs. But let’s dive into some surprising sources of protein that you can incorporate into your meals.

But first – why protein?

We already mentioned cell growth and repair, but protein plays other important roles. If you have ever tried to put on a substantial amount of muscle, you know you need to pack on the protein. Beyond muscle growth and preservation, protein also helps us feel fuller longer. Another lesser-known property of protein is that it plays a role in helping the body fight off infections.

Long story short, protein is crucial for a variety of body systems. But, once you are bought in to the benefits of protein, how do you incorporate it into your diet? Together, let’s explore some sources of protein beyond meat and dairy products.

Beans

Beans, beans, the musical fruit- the more you eat, the more… protein you get! A half cup of cooked beans provides around 6-8 grams of protein. One of the best things about beans is the variety to choose from — black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, white and more. Beans are an easy, cheap source of protein that also have high fiber content, another important ingredient for healthy eating.

Hummus

As mentioned above, beans are a great source of protein. But what about beans that have been pureed and mixed with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and spices — also known as hummus? Chickpeas/garbanzo beans on their own have about 7 grams of protein per half cup. In hummus form, they are a delicious source of protein you can pair sliced veggies or whole grain crackers for a healthy snack or appetizer!

Seeds

Pumpkin, sunflower, chia, oh my! Seeds may be small, but they are mighty in protein. Each of these contains roughly 6 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving, making them an excellent snack, garnish, or mix-in when you are looking for a quick protein boost.

Grains

Grains may be the most surprising source of protein on the list. That’s right — some of our favorite carbs contain a decent amount of protein! Don’t believe me? Check the bag of rice sitting in your pantry! While all grains provide some amount of protein, whole grains offer more protein per serving than refined grains.

This is because the refinement process strips part of the germ and bran of the grain, both of which contain the most protein (and fiber) in the grain. Most whole grains contain around 6 to 8 grams of protein per serving, while some “ancient” grains like sorghum provide a whopping 20 grains per cooked cup. If you want to add more whole grains to your diet, check out quinoa, brown or wild rice, oats, couscous, whole wheat pasta and some breads.

How much protein do you need?

Not sure how much protein you should be consuming every day? While daily protein needs vary among age, sex, height, weight, and activity level, a good starting point to calculating your needs would be to follow the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) calculation of .36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight:

For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds would need to consume 54 grams of protein per day (0.36 x 150) to meet their basic nutritional requirement of protein.

With any foods, be sure to check the nutrition facts label on the back or side panel of the food to find the serving size and protein provided. Work with your healthcare provider or a dietitian to calculate your daily macronutrient needs.

Craving more? Check out the following high protein recipes!