With about 6 grams of protein apiece, eggs are an excellent source of this vital nutrient. But lots of other foods offer as much or more. For example, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) provide nearly 8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. People have enjoyed them since the days of ancient Egypt. They're best known these days as the base for hummus. Toss a handful on a salad, or cook them into a hearty soup.
This nutritious source of protein, with nearly 12 grams in a half-cup, plays well with others. That's because it doesn't have a strong flavor on its own. Make a healthy snack by pairing cottage cheese with most any kind of fruit. Or use it as a protein-boosting secret ingredient in pancakes. Go with low-fat cottage cheese to keep it healthy.
This creamy spread isn't as well-known as its peanutty cousin. But with 7 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons, it should be. With plenty of heart-healthy fats, it's a great way to fuel up before a workout. You can even make it at home -- all you need is almonds and a blender. Spice it up with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, or curry powder if that's how you roll.
This zingy cheese is loaded with protein -- about 7 grams per ounce -- as well as other nutrients like calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B12. But keep your portions small or choose a lower-fat version. The fats found in dairy foods aren't the heart-healthy type. Cheese can be high in salt, too.
A half-cup of these legumes gives you 8 grams of protein, about as much as you'd get from 1 ounce of lean steak. They come in lots of colors -- brown, green, black, yellow, red, and orange. They cook up faster than beans. And you don't even need to soak them first. Try the brown ones in veggie burgers, the green ones in salads, and the red ones in a spicy curry.
Don't toss these after you carve the jack-o'-lantern. (An easier route is to buy the already roasted type at the store.) An ounce of shelled ones has 8 1/2 grams of protein. They're also a good source of zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. Eat a handful with an apple for a filling snack. Or stir them into oatmeal, granola, or homemade bread dough.
You only need about 4 ounces of these shellfish to get more than 17 grams of protein. They're also low in calories and fat and have little mercury. Shrimp cook quickly, too. But step away from the breaded, deep-fried variety. Instead, toss grilled shrimp into pasta with marinara sauce for a fast, protein-rich meal.
This whole grain (actually an edible seed) packs about 7 1/2 grams of protein per cup. It's a good source of fiber, too. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa is as easy to prepare as rice. Because it tastes rather bland on its own, add it to salads or grain bowls. You can also eat it as a hot cereal, or even pop it like popcorn.
Long known as a backpacking standby, jerky is dried, lean meat. One ounce can have up to 15 grams of protein. Many brands are high in salt, sugar, and additives like nitrate. But some new products are changing jerky's reputation as junk food. You can find jerky made from turkey, salmon, and even elk and ostrich. Check the label for sodium, sugar, and chemicals. You can make your own as well.
They won't get you high -- they're from a different type of cannabis plant than marijuana. But these nutty-tasting seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts) do pack a powerful jolt of protein. Three tablespoons give you 9 1/2 grams, along with lots of heart-healthy fats. They're tasty blended into smoothies. Try some hemp milk on your morning cereal.
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- Leah Thomas, RD, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development, Georgia Tech Athletic Association, Atlanta.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "How Much Protein Should I Eat?" "Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition," "Make It Mediterranean."
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference," "What Is Jerky?"
- National Center for Biotechnical Information: "The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus."
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Top 4 Protein Sources May Surprise You," "Recipe: Cottage Cheese Pancakes With Maple Syrup-Sweetened Berries."
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition and Healthy Eating," "Pumpkin: Loaded With Scary-Good Nutrients."
- Harvard School of Public Health: "The Nutrition Source: Almonds," "Lentils," "Fish: Friend or Foe?" "Quinoa."
- Tufts University: "Can You Get Jumbo Benefits from Eating Shrimp?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Protein Content of Common Foods."
- Nutrition and Metabolism: "The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed."