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Unexpected Protein Sources

Protein is essential to good health and provides your body with the key nutrients to build muscle, bone, and blood. Traditionally, global dietary guidelines have recommended protein account for 15% of your total energy intake. More recently, ‘trending’ diets advocate for more protein, recommending up to 30% of your total energy intake. The CSIRO suggests eating more protein, as much as 25% of total energy intake, could help to maintain a healthy body weight and preserve muscle mass and strength with ageing. This equates to about 80-100g per day for the average person. So how you meet these protein requirements? Meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, soy and nuts are the obvious choices, as are protein supplements.

But where else can you find protein? We’ve listed five surprising wholefood sources of proteins, you probably wouldn’t have guessed!

1. Chia seeds

You can find chia seeds on most ‘superfoods’ lists, due to their high content of soluble fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. But did you know chia seeds are also a great source of protein? Just one tablespoon of chia seeds will provide 3.5g of protein, almost the same as a hard-boiled egg! This makes chia seeds a great ‘vegan’ alternative, and an easy protein-rich breakfast option. Try a chia seed pudding, or adding chia seeds to your favourite smoothie or breakfast bowl.

2. Edamame

Everyone’s favourite appetiser just got even more appealing! Just ½ cup of shelled edamame beans will provide 10g of protein, so be careful not to fill up on these before your main course starts! If you’re looking for a filling vegetarian salad, try adding some edamame beans and ricotta cheese to a base of spinach, shredded carrot and sliced capsicum. Yum!

3. Spirulina

If you’re a devout vegan, we’re sure you already know about the many benefits of spirulina. For the rest of our readers, spirulina is a ‘friendly’ bacteria (or algae), and it is rich in many of the nutrients lacking in plant foods – iron, calcium, zinc and protein. In fact, spirulina is one of the only vegan-friendly foods offering a ‘complete’ source of protein – that is, it offers all essential amino acids for the synthesis of body proteins. You’ll find spirulina added to most green powders, and sold separately as a supplement. One tablespoon of pure spirulina provides 4g of protein. Best enjoyed blended into smoothies or smoothie bowls!

4. Cacao

As if we needed another reason to eat chocolate! Turns out raw cacao powder is a rich source of protein, offering 27g per 100g, similar to fish! Add 1tbs of cacao powder to your favourite smoothie or overnight oats for nourishment, and pure joy! Better yet, combine it with organic peanut butter for double protein, double deliciousness!

5. Quinoa

Last but not least, quinoa stands out for being the ‘grain’ with the highest protein density, topping oats, wheat, brown rice and buckwheat. This may be because quinoa, in fact, is not even a ‘grain’ at all – it’s a seed. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g of protein – so just imagine how filling a quinoa salad with chicken would be!


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