An adequate protein intake is critical for anyone who wants to lose weight and look good – especially if you’re exercising – because weight loss and exercise can break the body down a bit, and protein is essential for the repair process that is needed by the body.
We all think the best sources of protein are meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy.
The problem with these foods is they are generally higher in fat and calories (and they are not an option for ethical vegans) than vegetables and fruits, so it’s easy to eat too much if you’re constantly grazing on them.
But did you know that ALL foods contain some protein? It makes sense… the foods were alive, so they must have some proteins in their biological make-up too.
Here are the top five non-meat, non-dairy protein foods:
But did you know that ALL foods contain some protein?
Sidenote: Men NEED around 65g of protein per day, women about 55g. If the individual is exercising hard, this number can be doubled. Any more than that is wasted calories, as the body can’t use more.
1. Green peas
Green peas contain around 7.9g of protein per cup. That’s the same as a cup of milk, but without the fat and carbohydrate overload. Peas are a legume, and many of the other legumes are also high in protein.
Here’s a pea pasta recipe that’s fantastic (click on the image below to view the recipe):
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wha) is a wheat-free grain (technically a seed). It has the highest protein of the grains, at over 8g per cup.
It also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a ‘complete’ protein. It’s incredibly versatile. It can be eaten as a porridge, in a warm salad with roasted veg, in a cold salad, added to soups, or used instead of rice with a stew or chicken dish.
Protein salad anyone? (click on the image below to view the recipe):
3. Nuts and nut butters
Nuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats, but are very high in calories (because fats have nine calories per gram). For this reason they are important in the diet, and they are packed with nutrients, but one should be careful not to eat too many nuts or nut butters.
When choosing nuts, go for the plain raw or plain roasted ones. When choosing a nut butter, select the one with the fewest ingredients, and preferably one with no added salt or sugar, and definitely no hydrogenated oils.
Make your own nut butter (click on the image below to view the recipe):
No matter what type of beans you prefer – red, pinto, butter, black, white, lentils – you are getting a serious injection of protein in your diet by eating them. A cup of legumes contains around 12g of protein.
An added bonus is that they are high in fibre, so they take long to digest, making you feel nice and full for ages. If you buy canned beans, choose a brand with no chemical additives. You may also want to rinse off the brine/sauce they put on the beans in the tin, but otherwise there is no problem with canned beans.
Quick, easy, affordable protein (click on the image below to view the recipe):
Chickpeas are high in protein (15g per cup) and fibre, and have a wonderful texture too. Toss them into a salad, fry and salt them as a snack, or blend them with some oil and herbs into a lovely protein-rich hummus and eat with a bit of flatbread or cut-up veggies.
Or try out this hearty protein-filled soup (click on the image below to view the recipe):