Ah, protein: gone are the days when images of heavy meats like lamb, beef, and pork come top of mind. Now we associated it with fish, eggs, leafy greens, beans—the list goes on. The emergence of various food alternatives and diets has widely expanded our knowledge that protein can come from many other sources. Before we dive in, the question must be answered: why exactly is protein so important?

Get this—every cell in our body is made up of protein, and protein is made up of amino acids (A.K.A. the building blocks of life!). Categorized as a macronutrient, our body needs a relatively large amount of protein to stay healthy, or exactly 1/4 serving for every meal. Unlike carbohydrates or fat, our body doesn’t store protein so it relies heavily on the food that we eat and the amino acids it leaves behind. Consuming balanced and good quality protein makes way to create a holistic body foundation and structure.

With that out of the way, here are 10 high-protein sources you can add onto your plate immediately!

#1. QUINOA

Certified rice lover but hate the calories? Say hello to your new best friend, quinoa. Profiled as a whole grain, one cup of cooked quinoa is 40 calories less than a cup of white rice, plus five grams more of fiber and double the protein! Due to its high protein content, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids which gives it the coveted title of a complete protein! This plant-based protein doesn’t just aid in weight loss but it fills you up easily making you eat less.

WE RECOMMEND: Green Silo Organic Quinoa (1kg), P650, The Green Tummy Quinoa (200g), P200, ASAB Organics Tri-Color Quinoa (200g), P195

#2. PUMPKIN SEEDS

Don’t be fooled by its small size! Just an ounce of these bad boys already contain five grams of protein. Pumpkin seeds are rich sources of amino acids and contain a high amount of tryptophan, the amino acid that enhances serotonin production in the body. It’s the ultimate mood booster to brighten up your day! Just add some in your salad, oatmeal, or even make your own trail mix to level up your daily protein intake!

WE RECOMMEND: Healthy Munch Pumpkin Seeds (80g), P145, ASAB Organics Pumpkin Seeds (80g), P110

#3. WHOLE WHEAT PASTA

Carb-loaded and guiltless? Yes, please! But don’t just dive in those spaghetti and meatballs, because by pasta we mean the protein type. White pasta contains so much refined sugar and carbohydrates but have low levels of fiber and protein. On the other hand, whole-grain protein pasta has lower calorie content but is packed with fiber and nutrients. Quick and easy to make, plus it gives you the same texture as your usual plate!

WE RECOMMEND: 7Grains Company Organic Yellow Soybean Protein Pasta, P160, 7Grains Company Organic Edamame Protein Pasta, P160

#4. PEANUT BUTTER

Your all-time favorite kiddie spread is not just a sweet treat! This fiber-rich energy booster is packed with proteins containing mono-saturated fats coupled with vitamins and minerals proven to repair and build muscles. Just two tablespoons of this nutty spread is packed with 8 grams of protein! While a PB&J sure is tempting but it’s best to pair with low-carb foods like Greek yogurt or celery stalks.

WE RECOMMEND: Lifestyle Gourmet All Natural Peanut Butter (240g), P150, Planted Seeds by Kristina 100% Peanut Butter, P240

#5. COTTAGE CHEESE

All that dairy doesn’t have to contain all those calories! While cheese is widely known to be an excellent source of calcium, cottage cheese is one of the chosen few under the dairy family that is low in calories and fat but retains a high level of protein. A four-ounce serving of cottage cheese contains an outstanding 14 grams of protein! Use it as a spread for your morning toast or make a yummy snack dip!

#6. GREEN PEAS

These pods have always been confused as vegetables but they’re actually part of the legume family! Green peas are one of the best plant-based sources of protein—a major reason why they’re so filling, along with their high amount of protein and fiber. A cup of these babies equate to 8 grams of protein, plus 100% of your daily value of vitamin C intake!

#7. SWEET POTATO

Don’t feel sorry about that extra order of sweet potato fries. These starchy, sweet root vegetables are filled with fiber and loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s known to be a high-protein veggie brimming with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that contains vitamin A, which is good for healthy vision, skin, and bones. Put some slices in your sandwich or wrap, or replace your regular potatoes to make some sweet potato mash!

#8. PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS

Protein masked in smoothies and bars can sometimes be intimidating but don’t be scared! These supplements aid your diet and amp your protein intake through improved muscle growth and lean muscle mass. But don’t forget that a balanced diet is necessary so don’t just consume supplements and expect instant wonders!

#9. PROTEIN POWDER

There’s a reason gym rats rave about whey powder. It’s a complete protein that contains all nine amino acids essential to complete the human diet. It builds up muscle mass and strength, and helps you lose significant amount of fat. Prep 1-2 scoops per serving and drink it after your daily workout to reap the benefits.

WE RECOMMEND: Wheyl Nutrition Co. Just Salted Chocolate Whey Protein (454g), P550, Wheyl Nutrition Co. Just Double Berry Whey Protein, P550

#10. PROTEIN BARS

Craving for a quick protein boost? Bite into a protein bar! These snacks have relatively less calories than energy bars and can help in weight loss. Just choose the ones with a higher fiber percentage and less sugar content.

WE RECOMMEND: Carman’s Greek Style Yoghurt and Berry Bars, P285, ONE Bar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (60g), P150, ONE Bar Blueberry Cobbler (60g), P150

#Gains.

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