Eat These Foods That Are Surprisingly High in Protein

Think you’re getting enough protein in your diet? Well, you may want to think again — Donald Layman, Ph.D. and professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, tells Men’s Health that while the recommended daily intake of protein for adults should be around 56 grams, our bodies could use even more than this. Protein is well known for its ability to help build and repair muscle but it can also curb hunger and helps to prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Though you may already know that fish, chicken, and lean beef are high-protein foods, the following seven ingredients are also contenders.

1. Soybeans

soybeans

Add soybeans to your diet. | iStock.com

While there are other beans on the market that also have quite a bit of protein, it is the humble soybean that really gives you the most benefits. FitDay explains how the soybean is the only vegetable to contain all nine amino acids that our bodies require.

One cup of edamame (immature soybeans that are a fantastic snack when steamed) offers 22 grams of protein, a quarter of your daily calcium, and half of your recommended amount of vitamin C and folate, according to Fitness.

2. Lentils

lentils and other beans

Lentils are delicious and full of protein. | iStock.com

Lentils, according to Eat This, Not That!, contain 18 grams of protein per cup, which is pretty impressive. Even if you’re going for a higher protein goal, lentils are an excellent way to incorporate more protein into your diet, as one cup has the protein amount of three eggs, and they have been shown to speed fat loss due to their high fiber content.

Simmer your lentils on the stove and serve for dinner with a filet of salmon, and you could be looking at nearly 40 grams of protein in just one meal.

3. Hemp seeds

hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are perfect for snacking and adding to salads. | iStock.com

While hemp seeds may not look like much, they pack a punch when it comes to their protein content. A story on Dr. Oz’s site explains how hemp seeds are full of protein, essential amino acids, and omega-3s. Just one ounce of hemp seeds offers 6 grams of protein, which is very close to the amount of protein in one egg. They are also useful in helping you better absorb nutrients found in dark, leafy greens.

The beauty of hemp seeds is their versatility — you can put a few on top of a salad, in a sandwich, or even over your morning cereal and reap the benefits.

4. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is the way to go. | iStock.com

You’ve seen the containers in the dairy section of your grocery store, and if you haven’t picked one up yet, you may want to start — plain Greek yogurt is not only very high in protein, but you’ll find a million ways to use it. Men’s Fitness talks about the benefits of Greek yogurt in terms of its protein content, as it holds 18 grams per 6-ounce container, or 24 grams per cup. Make sure to stray far from the flavored Greek yogurts that are populating the market, however, as these add extra calories and sugar.

5. Green peas

Fresh peas

Fresh peas are delicious and healthful. | iStock.com

Though vegetables are not necessarily renowned for their high protein content, peas are a surprisingly great source, as a cup of peas has eight times as much protein as a cup of spinach. A single cup of peas has eight grams of protein and nearly an entire day’s value of vitamin C, according to Eat This, Not That! Peas are also a lot less starchy than kidney, navy, and lima beans, making them a less carb-filled choice when looking at all of your legume options.

Try adding them into a salad alongside fish, chicken, or beans for added flavor.

6. Oats

oats

Oats are great savory or sweet. | iStock.com

While oats may not be the first food that you consider when thinking about your protein intake, they’re perfect for a quick and healthful breakfast, as they can give you anywhere from 10% to 14% of your recommended amount of daily protein. Livestrong.com states that processed oats don’t hold nearly as much protein as whole oats, however, so make sure to purchase oats in their rawest form to receive maximum benefits.

A half cup of whole oats holds almost 7 grams of protein. Try adding in your oats to breads, smoothies, or even a streusel topping for protein in your dessert.

7. Quinoa

quinoa

Quinoa has a lot to offer. | iStock.com

If you’re looking for the perfect grain to raise your daily protein amount, then look no further. Quinoa is superior to other grains when it comes to protein, with about 8 grams per cooked cup. Quinoa is also particularly great because it’s a complete protein, containing all nine amino acids that benefit your body and must come from food.

Don’t be discouraged by quinoa’s many different varieties, colors, and earthy look — though you should feel free to marry your quinoa with kale and a chicken breast, you can also get creative and add it in a burrito or pancakes.