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Top 8 Hidden Sources of Protein

We typically think of protein as a nutrient that comes from animal meat. But you can easily get enough protein every day by following a plant-based diet. There are plenty of foods that give us protein without the saturated fat and sodium present in animal products. Here are eight hidden sources of plant-based protein.


1. Quinoa

Quinoa is unique in that it’s one of the only non-animal proteins that provides all of the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. Quinoa is also rich in complex carbohydrates, which means you can serve it as a protein or a carb.

1 cup cooked quinoa = 9 grams of protein

2. Spinach

Spinach is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and protein. Choose cooked spinach instead of raw, as the cooked version will have more concentrated nutrients. Also, add a touch of healthy oil to your spinach to help your body better absorb its vitamins.

1 cup cooked spinach = 5 grams of protein

3. Beans

top-8-hidden-sources-of-protein-2Beans have a unique combination of protein and fiber. Protein helps you feel satisfied, while fiber helps you feel full longer by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. For a complete protein, combine beans with a whole grain. For example, eat black beans with brown rice.

1 cup cooked black beans = 15 grams protein

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich in protein and heart-healthy fats. Certain nuts and seeds have more protein than others. Per 1-ounce serving, pumpkin seeds have 8 grams of protein, peanuts have 7 grams, and almonds and pistachios have 6 grams each.

5. Avocados

Avocados get most of their calories from healthy fats, but they also have some protein. One whole avocado has 4 grams of While a serving size of avocado is generally around 1/4 of the whole fruit, the small addition of protein adds up.

1 whole avocado = 4 grams protein

6. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are mostly known for their anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. However, protein is also hiding inside these little seeds. A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds has about 4 grams of protein. Add chia seeds to smoothies, fruit salad, cereal or yogurt parfaits.

1 ounce chia seeds = 4 grams protein

7. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is popular among vegans and vegetarians because it has nutrients that are hard to get from plant foods, such as vitamin B12. top-8-hidden-sources-of-protein-4You can find nutritional yeast at your local health food store. Add it to popcorn, pasta and soups.

1 ounce nutritional yeast = 8 grams protein

8. Broccoli

Broccoli has a blend antioxidants, fiber and protein. To avoid nutrient loss, cook broccoli quickly and using as little water as possible. Steaming, roasting and sautéing are all great methods.

1 cup cooked broccoli = 4 grams protein

This blog was originally published on February 4, 2014. It was last updated on September 1, 2016. 

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2 thoughts on “Top 8 Hidden Sources of Protein

  1. My nutritionist told me that much of the nutrients of nuts and seeds (including Chia seeds) will not be available to the body unless you soak them in water (or something like lemon juice) for a while first. Is this true? So now I soak my chia seeds and almonds in water for 30 min or so before I make my morning smoothie (which includes nutritional yeast).

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