When it comes to high-protein foods, eggs and chicken are the Angelina Jolie of edibles: They pull all the focus, and that's understandable — they've got the goods.
But AJ can't populate every film (would that it were so), and the best high-protein diet doesn't come from a cage. You know you need protein for a flat belly diet: It's a crucial building block for lean muscle, which in turn burns fat. But you probably don't realize how many different foods will give you a serious amount, including fruits and veggies. In fact, a number of unsung and surprising foods pack almost as much — or even more — protein than an egg. (For reference, that's 6 grams.)
Amount of Protein: 8 g per cup (14% DV)
It's enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100% of your daily value of Vitamin C in a single cup, they’ll help keep your immune system up to snuff.
How to Enjoy Them: Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs' satiating power.
Amount of Protein: 4.2 g per cup (8% DV)
The highest-protein fruit, guava packs more than 4 grams per cup, along with 9 grams of fiber and only 112 calories. With 600% of your DV of Vitamin C per cup — the equivalent of more than seven medium oranges! — the tropical fruit should merengue its way into your shopping cart ASAP.
How to Enjoy Them: The fairly complicated preparation process involves slicing and eating. You can also toss them into just about any type of salad, slip slices into a detox water, or make homemade popsicles with a fraction of the sugar of storebought.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per tablespoon (11% DV)
Similar in taste to sunflower seeds, these nuts are derived from hemp seeds, which are also used to grow cannabis. (We know what you’re thinking. The answer is no.) By weight, hemp seed nuts provide more high-quality protein than even beef or fish. Each nut is also packed with heart-healthy alphalinoleic acid. Find them in your local health-food store or in the natural-products section of your grocery store.
How to Enjoy Them: Eat them straight from the bag, or sprinkle a handful on salads or in your morning oatmeal.
Amount of Protein: 18 g per cup (36% DV)
Here are some pretty amazing proportions: One cup of lentils has the protein of three eggs, with less than one gram of fat! Their high fiber content makes them extremely satiating, and studies have shown that they speed fat loss: Spanish researchers found that people whose diets included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight and improved their cholesterol more than people who didn't.
How to Enjoy Them: Eat them on their own as a side or simmer them into a number of all-season soups.
Amount of Protein: 11 g per cup, cooked (20% DV)
This ancient grain, which you can use in place of quinoa, has 3 more grams of protein per cup than its trendy cousin. It’s high in magnesium, potassium and iron, with 21 g of fiber per cup. Bonus: A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating kamut reduces cholesterol, blood sugar and cytokines, which cause inflammation throughout the body.
How to Enjoy It: Toss it into salads or eat it as a side dish on its own. And if you’re looking for a quick way to turbocharge your own weight-loss, sip your way thin with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse. Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!
Amount of Protein: 12 g in 1/2 cup (24% DV)
You may not have heard about this wheat-rye hybrid, but it just might become your favorite. An able stand-in for rice or quinoa, triticale packs twice as much protein as an egg in one 1/2 cup serving! It's also rich in brain-boosting iron, muscle-mending potassium and magnesium, and heart-healthy fiber.
How to Enjoy It: Use triticale in place of rice and mix it with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cloves, shiitake mushrooms and edamame to make a healthy, Asian-inspired dish. You can also use triticale flour in place of traditional flour in your baking.
Amount of Protein: 5 g per 1 oz serving (9% DV)
Dairy products are famously protein rich, but this versatile cheese (dare we say the most versatile?) is truly impressive: You can get nearly 10% of your daily protein from a 1 oz, 76-calorie serving.
How to Enjoy It: Crumble goat cheese over a colorful salad and top it with our Zero Belly Vinaigrette dressing; use a watermelon or chickpea base to ratchet up the fat-burning benefits. Or combine feta with other flat-belly ingredients to make a creative healthy homemade pizza, like the arugula-and-cherry number above.
Amount of Protein: 8 g per 1/2 cup (14% DV)
When it comes to healthy snack foods, almonds and walnuts are always on the A-list, but pumpkin seeds, a.k.a. pepitas, are an underrated winner. One half-cup serving has 20% more protein than an egg, and is high in iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and immune-system-boosting zinc.
How to Enjoy Them: Add pumpkin seeds to salads, oats and yogurt, or grab a handful as a snack.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per cup (12% DV)
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you 7 grams of fiber, ¾ of your RDA of potassium—which is essential for heart health and tissue repair—and 50% of your RDA of vitamin C, the superstar antioxidant that prevents DNA damage. They’re also rich in vitamins A and K.
How to Enjoy Them: Use them as a pizza topping, a tangy addition to salads, or snack on them right out of the bag.
Amount of Protein: 8-12 g in two slices (14-21% DV)
Not all breads are carb bombs waiting to shatter your weight loss goals. This nutrient-dense bread is loaded with folate-filled lentils and good-for-you grains and seeds like barley and millet.
How to Enjoy It: Make a protein-packed veggie sandwich overflowing with wholesome nutrients. On two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread combine tahini-free hummus, avocado slices, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, onions, spinach and tomatoes.
Amount of Protein: 11 g in one cup (20% DV)
You might not think of the little beige bullets as a superfood, but it's time to start. High in nutrients and soluble fiber, chickpeas are a prime weight-loss weapon, increasing feelings of satiety by releasing an appetite-suppressing hormone called cholecystokinin.
How to Enjoy Them: Use chickpeas as a base for a salad incorporating tomatoes and feta, blend them into homemade hummus with lemon and olive oil, or roast them (above) for a superhealthy alternative to chips. You can also substitute chickpea flour for a portion of the regular flour you use in baking; it contains almost twice as much protein as the standard white stuff.
Amount of Protein: 8 g per 1 oz slice (14% DV)
Here’s an excuse for a wine-and-cheese hour: The schmancy Swiss cheese (don’t forget the accented ‘e’) contains 30% more protein than an egg in one slice, plus one-third of your RDA of vitamin A.
How to Enjoy It: If you’re looking to indulge, keep your serving to the size of four dice, and moderate your vino to one glass for women, two glasses for men, to get the bad-cholesterol-lowering benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol. Also, slim down fast by offsetting all these empty calories with these 8 Best-Ever Superfoods for a Flat Stomach!