Monday 21 August 2023

17 Foods with More Protein Than an Egg to Boost Your Meals

 Have you noticed how obsessed with protein everyone seems to be these days? Food manufacturers are constantly bragging about the grams of protein on the front label, plenty of people at the gym seem to be discussing their post-workout protein shake routine, and anytime someone switches to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle everyone seems concerned about how on earth they’ll get enough protein. What’s with this fixation?

“Protein helps to build and repair lean muscle mass,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the forthcoming Up Your Veggies: Flexitarian Recipes for the Entire Family. “From a digestion standpoint, protein helps you feel full faster and stay satiated and full for longer.”

As such, it’s recommended to include protein at every meal. Amidor says the goal is to include 20-30 grams of high-quality protein—meaning it contains all the essential amino acids—at breakfast, lunch and dinner. That equates to eating 3-4 ounces of protein per meal, which fills roughly one-quarter of your plate.

“Complete proteins come from animal-based foods like lean beef, pork or eggs,” says Amidor. “If you eat plant-based protein, make sure you are eating protein combinations or a variety of proteins throughout the day.”

How Much Protein Is In an Egg?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one large egg provides 71.5 calories and 6.3 grams of complete, high-quality protein. In fact, one egg has all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs daily: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Eggs also contain magnesium, potassium, selenium, folate, choline, vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D.

Egg Yolks vs. Egg Whites

Egg whites, also known as albumen, account for about 66% of the egg’s liquid weight and contain about half of the egg’s total protein. The rest is found in the yolk (the yellow portion). “Close to half of the protein is found in the yolk, and as such, I do recommend eating that golden yolk and minimizing food waste,” says Amidor. And even though it’s a source of dietary cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends one whole egg per day as part of a healthy diet.

Foods with More Protein Than an Egg

Eggs are an easy and complete source of protein, but considering they only have 6 grams of protein, they aren’t exactly the holy grail of protein sources. Check out these other protein-rich plant- and animal-based options that’ll boost your intake even more efficiently.



Made from soybeans, tofu is a complete plant-based protein that delivers 21.8 grams of protein in a half-cup serving. “Extra firm and firm tofu are great for stir fries and when you want the tofu to maintain its shape,” says Amidor. “Soft tofu can be battered and sauteed or pureed while silken tofu can be used in smoothies, blended and in sauces.”



Black Beans

Canned black beans with no added sodium are a great shelf-stable way to pump up your protein while also boosting your iron and fiber—they last for two to five years unopened. A half-cup serving yields 6.99 grams of protein, and it’s a lovely addition to chili, mixed with rice or tossed over a salad. You can also consult these recipes that start with a can of black beans if you need to use up a few cans. Can’t find low-sodium options? Amidor says that rinsing the beans can reduce the sodium by up to 40%.


Peanut Butter

Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich? When paired with whole wheat bread, this is a complete meal that provides 8 grams of protein—and it doesn’t matter if you choose crunchy or smooth. You’ll also get about 20% of your recommended daily amount of niacin, 8% of your daily dietary fiber and 10% of your day’s vitamin E in just two tablespoons.



Fresh, frozen or canned, salmon is a protein powerhouse, with almost 19 grams per 3 ounces. “Whether you choose farmed or wild, it is up to you,” says Amidor. “If affordability is a factor, choose the cheaper one as you will still get all the nutrition, including heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which most folks don’t get enough of.” The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 8 ounces of seafood per week based on a 2,000-calorie diet, and salmon is one of the “best choices” when it comes to limiting mercury.



This seed is categorized as a whole grain, and aside from boasting 8.14 grams of protein in a cooked cup, it also provides manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, folate and thiamin. “Look for pre-rinsed quinoa, as the seed naturally has a bitter outer covering, which is washed off when rinsed,” says Amidor, noting that the white, red, black and rainbow varieties all have a similar taste and nutrition content. Learn how to cook quinoa with our tips and tricks.


Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese packs 11 grams of protein into a one-cup serving, but the health benefits don’t stop there. “It also provides calcium, numerous B vitamins, selenium, iodine and phosphorous,” says Amidor. “Enjoy it topped with fruit and nuts as a snack or meal, and use blended cottage cheese in smoothies and dips.” Cottage cheese pancakes, anyone?


Greek Yogurt

Hop off the regular yogurt train because the health benefits of Greek yogurt are unmatched—7 ounces of lowfat plain Greek yogurt contains 19.9 grams of protein. For those who consider dairy your foe, you may be able to tolerate Greek yogurt. “Due to the live, active cultures, some folks with lactose intolerance find Greek yogurt easier to digest, plus it has a lower lactose level compared to other dairy foods like milk,” says Amidor. Greek yogurt is an easy replacement for mayo in many recipes and also works as a decadent dessert or stuffed in French toast.



Depending on which part of the chicken you’re eating (breast or thigh), 3 ounces of chicken contains between 20 and 26 grams of protein. “While many people reach for the breast because it’s leaner and a little higher in protein than the thigh, thighs can also fit into a healthy diet and tend to be more flavorful,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN and intuitive eating dietitian for moms at Sarah Gold Nutrition, LLC. “Chicken thighs also offer more iron than breasts, which can be helpful to meet your iron needs.”



Similarly to chicken, turkey protein varies between 22 and 26 grams of protein for 3 ounces, depending on the cut—white meat will have slightly more protein than dark meat. “I always encourage people to choose the cut they enjoy most because the difference in fat isn’t going to make a significant difference in your health,” says Anzlovar.


Beef Jerky

With between 9 and 12 grams of protein per stick, one of the health benefits of beef jerky is that it can be a convenient source of protein when you’re on-the-go. Anzlovar suggests looking for options that are nitrate-free and have no added sugar. “Jerky does contain a lot of sodium, which is used both for flavor and as a preservative, so if you need to limit sodium, look for lower-sodium options,” she says.



Edamame, or soybeans in the pod, is a solid source of plant-based protein with 9 grams per half-cup. It’s also a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and folate. “Edamame is also known for having soy isoflavones, which may be particularly beneficial for peri- and postmenopausal women, as isoflavones are linked to fewer menopause symptoms, increased bone density and lower rates of breast cancer,” says Anzlovar.



Tempeh, which is made of fermented soybeans, not only offers 15 grams of plant-based protein per 3-ounce serving, but it’s also packed with fiber, iron, calcium and fiber. Like other fermented foods, it contains some probiotics, which may support gut health. Here are at least five ways to cook tempeh to help you start incorporating it into your lunch and dinner roundups.



In addition to the 7 grams of protein per half-cup, chickpeas also pack in 6 grams of belly-filling fiber. They’re filled with vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium too. If you buy canned chickpeas, Anzlovar recommends choosing low-sodium or no-salt-added options. If you can’t find those, rinsing them does reduce the sodium content.



Canned tuna is an easy and inexpensive way to add protein to your diet. Just 3 ounces (a little more than half a can) contains 21 grams of protein. “It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which offer tons of health benefits from supporting your heart to your brain,” says Anzlovar. “Canned tuna in olive oil can offer additional healthy fats and tends to be more flavorful and a little less dry than tuna packed in water.” One word of caution: Tuna is a higher-mercury fish listed under “good choices” by the FDA, so only eat this once a week.


Hemp Seeds

These little seeds from the hemp plant may be tiny, but they offer big benefits. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein, 20% of your daily iron needs and several B vitamins (including folate). Anzlovar says they’re a great way to consume plant-based omega-3s, which may be helpful for people that don’t eat fish. No wonder they’re an easy way to add protein to smoothies.



All lentils (black, green or red) pack in around 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per half cup, along with several vitamins and minerals. “They’re one of the best sources of plant-based iron, with over 30% of your daily needs,” says Anzlovar. If lentils are a little unfamiliar, start with one of these lentil recipes or whip up a batch of vegan lentil soup in just 30 minutes.



Five small sardines offer about 15 grams of protein and about 25% of your daily calcium needs. Anzlovar says they’re also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with 1800 milligrams per serving. What’s more, they’re one of 14 foods high in calcium and they’re also rich in iron.

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