You read about it. You think about it way too often. You worry you’re not getting enough. And when you do get it, you worry that it’s not the best it could be.
We’re talking about protein, of course (what did you think we were talking about?). Protein gets a whole lot of hype just about everywhere you look; in health blogs, fitness magazines, and even from your trainer. And really, it’s for good reason. Protein helps your muscles to build and strengthen to their potential, and can help you maintain your developed muscles more efficiently. It’s an important component for healthy hair, skin, and bones. Favoring protein over other foods can help you stay satisfied longer after eating, and can help you shed a few pounds. It’s even a thermogenic food, meaning that your body burns more calories when digesting it than other foods.
And if you’ve jumped onto this beefy bandwagon, you know that it can get tiresome dining on the same-ol’, same-ol’ eggs, lean meat, and veggies, with maybe a protein shake thrown in the mix. Or, if you don’t eat meat, or try to not eat it very often, the high-protein lifestyle can get difficult. If you’re looking for a reprieve from carbon-copy chicken breast dinners, and a few fresh ideas for meatless protein, you’re in for a treat. There happen to be a ton of protein-rich foods out there that don’t get nearly enough attention. And just because we like you, we’ve jotted down a few of our favorites:
Pronounced “TEM-pay,” this is a naturally-fermented soy product that tastes a little nuttier and earthier than traditional tofu. You’ll probably find that it needs some preparation to flavor it well, (check out this website for inspiration: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/6-amazing-ways-to-eat-tempeh/) but your effort will pay off. A one-cup serving of tempeh boasts an impressive 31 grams of protein, as well as calcium and a slew of vitamins. Not only that, but soy products like this are complete proteins, containing the amino acids your body needs.
This diet fad food of the 1980’s has quietly coasted under the radar for decades. It’s actually a protein powerhouse boasting 26 grams per cup, and is a complete protein all on its own, with a respectfully low calorie count. Cottage cheese can match your mood, too; feel like something sweet? Mix in some bananas, berries, or mini chocolate chips. Feeling salty? You can blend cottage cheese to a creamy hummus-like consistency and add a packet of ranch dressing seasoning to give your carrot sticks a dunk that only feels decadent.
Once a treat only eaten in restaurants as a sushi precursor, these delicious soybeans are now available frozen, packaged in 2-3 serving-size bags. Simply pop the bag in the microwave, drain out any water, salt ‘em up, and pop ‘em out of their non-edible pod. Their stats are impressive, with one cup providing 22 grams of protein, half of your daily calcium and vitamin C requirements, as well as iron, magnesium, and the amino acids that makes edamame a complete protein.
We can’t forget about beans, chickpeas, green peas, and lentils. Not only are legumes cheap to buy and prepare, but there are a ton of varieties to try. When was the last time you had a mung bean, a speckled cranberry bean, or an azuki bean? Lovely legumes treat your body to substantial amounts of protein, fiber, and minerals. Take note, however, that many legumes are not a complete protein on their own. Pair them with a little whole-grain rice, barley, bulgar, or whole-grain toast to get the needed amino acids.