Nuts and seeds too often fall into the healthy snacks or topping categories of food. When you take a look at the nutritional profile of these gluten-free tiny but mighties, you realize they are so much more. They've been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and have an optimum mixture of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In addition to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, nuts and seeds are packed with protein. Here are the top 10 nuts and seeds high in protein, along with some suggestions for adding them to your diet and upping your amino acid intake!
Amino Acids: The Power Behind Protein
Protein is made up of amino acids that are linked together in a chain. The sequence of the amino acids creates a specific protein with a unique function to perform in the body. This might be building and repairing muscle tissue, generating neurotransmitters and enzymes, activating a chemical reaction, or strengthening the immune system.
There are 20 amino acids that make up the approximately 10,000 proteins in the human body. Nine of these amino acids your body cannot make on its own, so you must get them from your diet. They’re called the essential amino acids. To be considered high in protein, a food must be high in all or most of these amino acids. To be considered a complete protein (which is the highest quality protein), a food must have adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. There are only a few protein-rich nuts and seeds that meet this gold standard.
Complete Protein Seeds
Chia seeds and hemp seeds have garnered the reputation of being complete protein sources. They do indeed contain all the essential amino acids (EAAs), but they are low in lysine and so do not have the most ideal ratio of EAAs. As far as the protein content of seeds go, though, they’re the superstars...or rather superfoods, with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
EAAs in Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are 18-24% protein.
A 200-calorie serving of chia seeds (41 grams) contains 6.8 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds have more protein than chia seeds.
A 200-calorie serving of hemp seeds (36 grams) contains 11.4 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
Other Nuts and Seeds High in Protein
You might not be completing your protein needs with these high-protein nuts and seeds, but when combined with complementary proteins high in lysine, such as rice and whole grains, and as part of a varied diet that includes other plant-based proteins as well as animal proteins, you're boosting protein consumption and reaping the health benefits!
EAAs in Flax Seeds
Flax seeds need to be ground up in order to be properly digested. They make a great addition to salads, yogurts, smoothies, and cereals.
A 200-calorie serving of flax seeds (37 grams) contains 6.9 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Pumpkin Seeds
In addition to protein, pumpkin seeds offer up healthy fats, vitamin K, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper and zinc.
A 200-calorie serving of roasted squash and pumpkin seeds (35 grams) contains 10.4 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Sunflower Seeds
Gobble down those sunflower seeds, because they're gifting you protein plus vitamin E, vitamin B1, and copper.
A 200-calorie serving of roasted sunflower seeds (34 grams) contains 7.1 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Sesame Seeds
Sprinkle them over salads, add them to veggie dishes and bean dips—there is no shortage of creative ways to use sesame seeds and boost your protein intake.
A 200-calorie serving of sesame seeds (35 grams) contains 6.2 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Peanuts
We know peanuts are technically legumes, but since they are enjoyed as nuts—from peanut butter to everybody’s favorite dry roasted snack—they’ve secured a top spot on our list of nuts and seeds high in protein (and bonus: folate!).
A 200-calorie serving of raw unsalted peanuts (35 grams) contains 9.1 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Almonds
Although much lower in lysine and methionine than the other nuts and seeds we’ve covered, almonds are still a good source of protein along with fiber and healthy fats, namely monounsaturated fats that strengthen heart health. Almonds are also the nut highest in calcium!
A 200-calorie serving of almonds (35 grams) contains 7.3 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Pistachios
Pistachios are earning a rep as a complete protein by some nutrition counts, as they contain a higher balance of all the EAAs than any other nut. They are also high in vitamin B6 and the amino acid arginine which support healthy blood flow and blood pressure levels.
A 200-calorie serving of raw pistachio nuts (36 grams) contains 7.2 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
EAAs in Cashews
Cashews, along with other nuts like pine nuts, pecans, and walnuts, have been linked to lower rates of heart disease. And while they may be high in calories and fats, nuts, including cashews, have been proven to help promote weight loss.
A 200-calorie serving of raw cashews (36 grams) contains 6.6 grams of protein and the following essential amino acid breakdown:
That’s just 10 nuts and seeds high in protein, but the list goes on. Tree nuts like Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts make the cut and provide additional essential nutrients like selenium and potassium. By all means mix up the nuts!
If you're looking for additional ways to get more protein in your diet, then stop by our online shop full of essential amino acid supplements formulated with the ideal proportions of EAAs and designed for your most pressing health needs.