Popular Foods With More Protein Than Beef
It's no secret that protein is all the rage these days, and with good reason: it makes you feel full, it helps to build muscle, and studies have even shown that eating more of it can boost your metabolism and ultimately help with weight loss. And while meat may be the first thing you think of when it comes to high-protein food sources, you may be surprised to find out what many other foods have a higher concentration of this macronutrient.
According to the USDA, there are 17.1 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving of 80/20 ground beef with 254 calories. There are 4 calories per gram of protein, which translates to 68.8 calories from protein, or 27% protein per calorie. That may seem like a lot, but it turns out that many legumes, vegetables, and other vegetarian protein sources have even more protein per calorie—which is great news, considering that a 2020 study in Jama Internal Medicine found that eating two servings of red meat a week increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke by 3% to 7%.
We decided to double down on the top protein sources per calorie (reaching over 27% of protein per calorie found in ground beef) so we know just the right foods to stock up on, especially if you're looking to cut back on red meat. Then, be sure to check out all the Popular Foods With More Fiber Than Oatmeal.
100 grams of lentils = 9 grams, 31% protein per calorie
Considering a 100-gram serving of lentils only has 116 calories total, that means it's made up of a whopping 31% protein, which is considerably more than ground beef. How's that for impressive? Not only that, but they're way higher in satiating, gut-friendly fiber, with 7.9 grams per serving. Lentils contain 19.6% RDA of protein for women, and 16.1% RDA for men.
Lentils make a great addition to soups, salads, and grain bowls—but you can also try substituting them for meat in enchiladas and homemade burgers.
100 grams of tempeh = 20.3 grams, 42.3% protein per calorie
Made from fermented cooked soybeans, tempeh is a super popular protein source among vegans and vegetarians—and it's easy to see why. It has more fiber than tofu, and 42.3% calories from protein, which far surpasses beef. Tempeh can be pan-fried, crumbled into burritos, and even molded into sausage. When sliced thin and seasoned with smoke, it makes an excellent bacon substitute, too. A serving of tempeh contains 44.1% RDA for women and 36.3% RDA for men.
Seitan, which is made from gluten, contains 19 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, making it another good option if you're trying to avoid soy products—as long as you don't have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy, of course.
100 grams of broccoli = 2.8 grams, 33% protein per calorie
You probably already know that broccoli is brimming with important vitamins and minerals, plus a healthy dose of fiber. But did you know it's also one of the best vegetable sources of protein? Since this cruciferous veggie is so low in calories, it contains a jaw-dropping 33% protein. If that's not enough motivation to toss some broccoli crowns onto your next pasta dish, pizza, or stir fry, we don't know what is.
100 grams of edamame = 11.9 grams, 39.3% protein per calorie
Edamame is low in fat, high in fiber, rich in antioxidants, and may actually help to lower your cholesterol, making it a phenomenal choice whether you're trying to lose weight or just overall improve your health. But what you may not realize is that edamame is also made up of 39.3% protein.
Steamed edamame with a sprinkling of sea salt makes for a filling afternoon snack, but you can also remove the beans from the pods and add them to salads, grain bowls, and rice dishes.
Edamame contains 25.9% RDA for women and 21.2% RDA for men.
100 grams of kale = 2.9 grams, 33.4% protein per calorie
Kale is super low in calories but high in numerous essential vitamins, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. It also happens to consist of 33.4% protein. Try using it as a base for a Caesar salad, tossing it in the air-fryer to make crispy kale chips, or sautéing it with garlic for a tasty side dish.
100 grams of spinach = 2.9 grams, 50% protein per calorie
It seems like Popeye might have been on to something—because spinach is not only an excellent source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K, but it also packs a surprising amount of protein. In fact, because spinach is so low in calories, it boasts a staggering 50% protein. While it's a no-brainer for salads and side dishes, it also works well in smoothies, on pizzas, in dips, and layered into cheesy baked pasta.
100 grams of mushrooms = 3.1 grams, 56% protein per calorie
Don't underestimate the power of these nutritious fungi—with only 22 calories in a 100-gram serving, mushrooms are 56% protein. That's almost twice the percentage of protein in ground beef! And since mushrooms happen to have a meaty texture, they actually serve as the perfect beef substitute in burgers and tacos.
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