6 Excellent and Overlooked Sources of Protein

By Karen Foster

People always fall back to the same old sources of high quality proteins including meat, fish and eggs. Regardless if you are vegetarian or not, there are plenty of other excellent sources which can be incorporated into your diet. More people are modifying their choices for protein out of concern for their health, environment, and economy and the following are very worthy alternatives over the norm.

1. Quinoa 

A food so healthy that NASA hopes we’ll grow it on interplanetary space flights and one of the few complete proteins. Quinoa is grown in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru and is known as the “poor man’s” crop. It is a nutritious and sustainable food and it has all the essential amino acids needed to build metabolism-revving muscle. Swapping refined grains for whole proteins such as quinoa is not only more nutritious, it can help you lose belly fat. 

Quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc, and lower in sodium compared with wheat, barley and corn. It the most nutritious gluten-free grain known.

See: Astronauts Take First Bites of Their Space-Grown Food

2. Hempseed

Hempseed oil provides significant amounts of the more rare ‘super’ polyunsaturated fatty acids, notably gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA). It contains significant amounts of all nine essential amino acids, as well as plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (n6/n3) in hemp seed oil is normally between 2:1 and 3:1, which is considered to be optimal for human health.

3. Algae

Algae contains 63 percent protein, 15 percent fiber, 11 percent lipids, 4 percent carbohydrates, 4 percent micronutrients, and 3 percent moisture. It provides many vitamins including: A, B1, B2, B6, niacin and C, and are rich in iodine, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium. It is a heart healthy protein that is easily digestible. Algae — and especially microalgae — are rich in many high-value bioactive components including vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, pigments, antioxidants and sterols.

4. Chia

Chia is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with vitamins and minerals, are an excellent source of fibre, protein and antioxidants, and are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of chia seeds could help reduce joint pain, aid in weight loss, deliver an energy boost and protect against serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. An excellent property of these little seeds is that they form a goopy gel when combined with milk or water. This makes them fantastic for making healthy puddings, thickening smoothies, or replacing eggs in vegan baking.

5. Spirulina

Spirulina is also a complete protein and blue-green algae that is extremely rich in nutrients. It contains a higher concentration of protein by weight than any food ever studied. It also contains beta carotene, vitamin B-12, iron, chlorophyll, GLA fatty acids, and much more. It contains amino acids that promote improved mental functioning, vitality and energy, and balanced blood sugar. Spirulina can also promote immune function.

6. Beans

One of the simplest, cheapest, and most available meals in existence worldwide is also one of the best sources of protein around. They lower the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease because fiber helps balance blood sugar and lowers cholesterol. Subbing lentils or chickpeas for beans is also comparable. Tempeh is a one of the highest sources for protein of all beans.

The above photo by martakat83 appeared on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Karen Foster writes for Prevent Disease, where this article first appeared

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