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    Ask the Chef - What are some good superfoods to get more protein?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | October 12, 2015

    What are some good superfood sources of protein?

    No doubt, protein is the one of the biggest topics of conversation when it comes to nutrition. Protein is vital to health and development, contributing to most (if not all) functions in the body, and composing a part of every cell. Out of the 20 amino acids that create a protein, 9 of these are not manufactured by the human body, meaning we must get these so-called “essential†amino acids
    from the foods we eat. We can fulfill our daily protein needs by either consuming “complete†proteins (which have all of these essential amino acids), or through collecting the amino acids individually through varied foods - an easy task, as every amino acid is widely represented in the plant kingdom. While the exact amount of protein each person needs is hotly debated (and different), one thing nutritionists agree upon is that protein is best digested when consumed in relatively smaller quantities throughout the day, rather than in large surges. I tend to think of eating protein as a collective sport.

    Of course, when looking for protein sources, many people automatically assume animal-based sources, but virtually all whole-plant foods include protein as well, with the added bonus of containing a balance of carbohydrates and healthy fats, as well as broad micronutrients too. In fact, the great news is as long as you are eating whole foods, getting “enough “protein is of little concern.

    Nevertheless, it's good to know your food, to make the smartest choices possible. Superfoods are arguably our best sources of protein - not in quantity, but in quality: these foods offer us more than just protein, but meet many of our nutritional needs on an astoundingly broad level as well. Consider these superfood protein powerhouses your ticket to long-term satisfaction and truly holistic health:

    Chia Seeds
    Chia seeds are a true survival food, with a massively impressive spectrum of condensed nutrition. Among with these many benefits, chia also contains a nice protein boost - 2 grams per tablespoon! While it's difficult to eat huge quantities of chia (nor is there any real nutritional advantage of doing so), you can feel good that every spoonful adds a nice boost to your daily protein tally. Even more convenient, you can add a few extra grams of protein to just about anything thanks to chia's flexible blank-slate taste. Try chia in this protein-rich meal: Lisa Oz's Lentils

    Leafy Greens
    Where do gorillas, elephants and horses get their protein? Greens! It's very common to overlook these natural protein sources, but in fact every leafy green vegetable offers protein. A single cup of fresh kale, for example, contains nearly 3 grams of protein, and a cup of frozen spinach has 6 grams! Grasses, sprouts, and algae (often used in powdered form) also contain huge stores of protein (especially for their size and low calorie count): spirulina, for example, contains 4 grams of protein per tablespoon! The moral here is a salad is not as light as it looks, and a balanced protein smoothie has many benefits from being green. Try leafy greens in this protein-rich snack: BBQ-Hemp Kale Crisps

    When our ancestors gathered nuts and berries for fuel, in some cases they were actually collecting not one, but two sources of protein, as certain varieties of berries actually contain protein! Though most berries contain very little (strawberries, for example, contain just 1 gram per cup), some of our favorite “superberries†are actually quite impressive in the protein department. Dried goji berries contain 4 grams of complete protein per ounce, dried goldenberries contain 2 grams/ounce, and dried mulberries contain 3 grams/ounce. These berries are sweet, chewy and delicious snacks on their own, and can be used in addition to/in place of any other type of dried fruit for a boost. Try super-berries in this protein-rich smoothie: Vanilla Almond Smoothie.

    Though they act, in a culinary sense, much like grains, our favorite super-grains are not grains at all, but actually gluten-free seeds. Quinoa, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, and millet - to name a few - are some of the incredible varieties of super-grains that offer more than a starchy meal base, but are packed with protein at the same time. For example, a cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, and a cup of cooked amaranth contains 9 grams. From breakfast to dinner, these versatile grains make satisfying protein boosts to virtually any meal. Try super-grains in this protein-rich breakfast: Superpower Pecan Granola

    Hemp Seeds
    Hemp seeds are superfood protein royalty, boasting an impressive 5 grams of complete protein per 1½ tablespoons! Additionally, hemp powder, made from hemp seeds that have had their oil pressed out, is especially protein rich, coming in at a similar protein content per spoonful, but at a lower calorie cost/higher nutrient density (hemp powder is actually 50% protein!). Smoothies, baked goods, and entrees are all perfect canvases for hemp's delicious protein impact. Try hemp seeds in this protein-rich side-dish: Incan Pilaf or in these BBQ-Hemp Kale Crisps.