You’re on the right track if you’re looking to build muscle and already include chicken, beef, and salmon in your diet. These foods are excellent sources of high-quality protein. Incorporating beans into your meals is also a great idea as they provide a plant-based protein boost to further enhance your protein intake.
The repetition of lifting exercises during every workout can hinder muscular growth, just as relying on the same old protein foods can. By experimenting with alternative proteins, you can give your diet a new nutritional boost and add variety to your menu. This is important as repetitive meals can become stale and unappetizing. (Let’s face it, who gets excited about another serving of dried-out chicken breast?) In addition to adding some flavor to your diet, trying new protein sources can positively impact your physical activity levels and nutritional awareness.
A study conducted by Cornell University found that people who were more open to trying new foods tended to maintain higher levels of physical activity and were more concerned about their nutritional value.
Prepare yourself to elevate both your physical and culinary abilities with these thrilling protein-rich foods (listed in no particular order), which are new to you. Add them to your grocery list and showcase them on Instagram for sure.
BEST PROTEIN NO. 1: SABLEFISH
Protein Power: 15 grams in 3 ounces cooked
Although salmon and canned tuna are reliable sources of protein for building muscle, it’s worth considering another fish that often goes unnoticed. Sablefish, also known as black cod, swims along the ocean floor in the frigid waters of the North Pacific and boasts a delectable buttery flesh that is rich in high-quality protein and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. This swimmer is worth catching more often.
When it comes to omega-3s, sablefish outshines salmon, according to recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. People with higher levels of omega-3 fats in their blood tend to have longer and healthier lives, making sablefish a valuable addition to the diet. Sablefish is not just a one-trick pony, as it also contains important micronutrients like phosphorus, selenium, and niacin. Additionally, sablefish is an environmentally friendly choice, earning high marks from The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program for being sustainably caught in a well-managed fishery.
Eat More: Sablefish fillets, like halibut and tilapia, are versatile and can be prepared in various ways, including steaming, broiling, poaching, searing in a skillet, or grilling. Their high-fat content makes them an excellent option for novice cooks as the fat acts as a buffer against overcooking, ensuring that the fish remains moist and juicy. Additionally, sablefish fillets pair well with a variety of salsas, glazes, marinades, and spice rubs, making them incredibly versatile. They are also an excellent choice for tacos.
Need to know: Sablefish has a high oil content, which makes it prone to spoilage and reduces its shelf-life. As a result, obtaining fresh sablefish can be challenging. However, you can still enjoy this delectable fish by requesting frozen cuts from your fishmonger. Frozen sablefish is of high quality, more affordable, and readily available throughout the year.
BEST PROTEIN NO. 2: TEMPEH
Protein power: 20 grams in 3 ounces
Looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet? You’re certainly not alone. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider trying tempeh – a nutritious and flavorful option. Unlike tofu, tempeh is made from whole soybeans that are soaked, cooked, fermented with a fungus, and then pressed into a firm, dense patty. The result is a deliciously earthy and umami-rich flavor with a subtle nutty undertone.
Tempeh provides about 60% more protein per serving compared to tofu, which is a significant increase and is close to the amount of protein found in a serving of chicken breast. Therefore, the assumption that plant-based sources lack protein is incorrect when it comes to tempeh.
In addition, tempeh is a great source of dietary fiber, with a cup serving containing 10 grams of it. It’s worth noting that the majority of American men don’t consume enough fiber daily, which is a significant problem since dietary fiber plays a crucial role in heart health, digestive function, blood glucose regulation, and enhancing the gut microbiome.
Tempeh stands out as one of the best foods that can provide you with both protein and fiber simultaneously. Recent studies indicate that the fermentation process involved in producing foods like tempeh enables the nutrients to be more easily absorbed by the body, as measured by the bioavailability of nutrients like iron, calcium, and magnesium, which are abundant in tempeh. Additionally, tempeh is a great option for consumers who are not interested in highly processed plant-based products like meat substitutes and imitation chicken nuggets, which have become ubiquitous.
Eat more: Tempeh is a versatile plant-based protein option that can be flavored plain or with additives such as maple or teriyaki. An excellent brand choice for tempeh is Lightlife. Due to its ability to absorb sauces and spices well, you can try marinating plain tempeh slabs like you would with steak and other proteins, then grill, bake, pan-fry, or cube and stir-fry.
Cooked tempeh can be added to grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, and tacos. Alternatively, crumble a block of tempeh with a box grater’s large holes or finely chop with a knife and use the grounds to make meat-free chili, plant-based meatballs, veggie burgers, or a no-meat Bolognese sauce for pasta night.
Need to know: If you happen to have a soy allergy, it is advisable to avoid consuming tempeh since it is produced using soybeans.
BEST PROTEIN NO. 3: CHICKPEA PASTA
Protein power: 13 grams in 2 ounces
Imagine noodles but with significantly more protein and less starchy carfewerThis is a prime example of processed food that can have positive health benefits. Contemporary pasta is created by drying chickpeas, grinding them into flour, and then molding the resulting substance into noodles of diverse forms.
Chickpea pasta boasts a higher protein content compared to regular pasta and other gluten-free rice pasta available in the market, with the amount varying depending on the brand. This nutritional advantage makes chickpea noodles a suitable option for those aiming to increase their lean mass while avoiding blood sugar fluctuations. Recent studies indicate that prioritizing plant-based sources of protein for muscle development is acceptable as long as sufficient total protein intake is maintained in the diet.
Over 30 studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine were analyzed and found that a higher intake of protein, particularly from plant sources, was associated with reduced risks of all-cause mortality. Plant protein intake was especially beneficial, offering up to three times more dietary fiber than wheat-based pasta. This increased fiber intake can help reduce post-meal hunger pangs and improve blood sugar levels, leading to a decrease in post-meal sluggishness. Additionally, chickpeas provide essential micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, and potassium in significant amounts.
Manufacturers have put in considerable effort to ensure that their cooked products have textures that would not make an Italian grandma cringe. Among the top choices are Chickapea and Banza brands.
Eat more: The chickpea version of pasta is a versatile ingredient that can be used in various dishes. It can be substituted for regular pasta and used in pasta salads, soups, baked noodle casseroles, and topped with meat sauce. Its usage is not limited to any particular dish, and it can be incorporated into any recipe that requires pasta.
Need to know: When getting ready to cook pasta made from chickpeas, it’s crucial to remember a few key points. One of the most important is that these noodles can quickly go from perfectly cooked and firm to overly soft and mushy, so be sure to sample them frequently as they approach the suggested cooking time. Additionally, when boiling chickpea pasta, the water will produce a substantial amount of foam, which you’ll need to remove regularly using a spoon. Unlike traditional wheat-based noodles, once you’ve drained the water, it’s crucial to rinse these thoroughly with cold water.
Protein power: 20 grams in 4 ounces
Alright, let me give it a shot!
Although it may seem like an unusual choice, beef heart can be a valuable addition to your diet. While some may be turned off by the idea of consuming organ meat, those in the know recognize its potential for providing affordable and nutrient-dense sustenance. Despite being less popular than other cuts of meat, beef heart is a powerhouse of nutrition, boasting high levels of protein, vitamin B12, iron, and the potent antioxidant, selenium. Don’t let its reputation as pet food fool you—the beef heart has the potential to fuel your body with essential nutrients.
In all honesty, beef heart is a highly nutrient-dense option compared to most other beef cuts available at the butcher. With the current rise in food prices, it’s important to consider foods that offer more nutritional value for your money. It’s worth noting that the heart of a cow is a tirelessly active organ, resulting in a high concentration of pure muscle and minimal fat. Consuming just four grams of the beef heart can provide 20 grams of protein, only 119 calories, and less than a gram of saturated fat.
Keep in mind that cow’s heart has a milder flavor compared to other organ meats such as liver and is simple to prepare in the kitchen due to its taste and texture, which resembles more familiar steak cuts. However, the same cannot be said for beef tongue.
Eat more: To prepare the beef heart, remove any white connective tissue before cooking. Given its low-fat content, it’s recommended to thinly slice the heart and cook it over high heat until it reaches no more than medium-rare, with a browned exterior and a slightly pink center. Alternatively, you can skewer the slices and grill them kabob-style. The heart meat can be enjoyed on its own or used as a filling in sandwiches, salads, and tacos.
Need to know: The beef heart is not typically available at supermarkets, packaged with other meats. The most reliable way to acquire this nutrient-dense red meat is by requesting your local butcher to reserve one for you during their cattle processing. Each beef heart typically weighs around one pound, providing enough meat for three servings.