15 Out-of-the-Box Sources That Pack a Powerful Protein Punch

by Laura Williams
Jul 24, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Let's be honest. When we think of protein sources, we usually picture the usual suspects like chicken, fish diary, eggs or a big ol' hunk of beef. And it's true — animal products are amazing sources of protein when it comes to providing all nine essential amino acids we need to stay healthy and build muscle.

But animals don't have the corner on the market when it comes to providing protein. Protein, or more specifically, amino acids — the building blocks of protein — are found in lots of foods, which means you can ramp up your protein intake by thoughtfully consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The trick is eating whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. The more processing a food goes through, the more likely its nutrients, including proteins found in the bran and germ that are most often processed out of refined grains, will be altered or stripped. Check out these 15 unexpected sources of protein to get started. 

Originally published August 2016. Updated July 2017.

1 /16: Chia seeds

1/16 :Chia seeds

Chia seeds boast 4.7 grams of protein per ounce.

2/16 :Edamame

These boiled green soybeans have a whopping 18 grams of protein per cup.

3/16 :Avocado

Next time you eat guac, be grateful for the extra 4.5 grams of protein you get per cup. 

4/16 :Cottage cheese

Need an easy protein-filled breakfast? One cup of cottage cheese has 25 grams of the good stuff.

5/16 :Artichokes

Your artichoke dip just got a lot more delicious with 4.2 grams of protein per medium-size veggie. 

6/16 :Seaweed

Add seaweed to your soups and salads for about 2 to 6 grams of protein per 100-gram serving.

7 /16: Pumpkin seeds

7/16 :Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are better than pumpkin spice when you consider their 12 grams of protein per cup.

8 /16: Green peas

8/16 :Green peas

Eat a cup of peas, get 8 grams of protein in return. Not a bad exchange. 

9 /16: Tempeh

9/16 :Tempeh

This fermented and fried soy "cake" provides a whopping 34 grams of protein per cup

10/16 :Seitan

Made specifically from the gluten protein, this "gluten meat" has 75 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. 

11 /16: Hemp seed

11/16 :Hemp seed

Top your oatmeal with hemp seeds for an extra 10 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon serving. 

12 /16: Soba noodles

12/16 :Soba noodles

Buckwheat-based soba noodles offer 6 grams of complete protein per cup of noodles. 

13/16 :Quinoa

Quinoa offers 8 grams of protein per cup and is a complete protein source (it provides all nine amino acids). 

14 /16: Sun-dried tomatoes

14/16 :Sun-dried tomatoes

Top your pizza or burger with sun-dried tomatoes for an extra 8 grams of protein per cup. 

15/16 :Kefir

Switch your Greek yogurt for a fermented probiotic-packed drink that has 6 grams protein per 6 ounces. 

16/16 :Pin it!