A high-protein diet doesn’t have to be high in meat. Plenty of vegetarian foods have high levels of protein, with many beans at the top of the list. Some nuts and seeds also are high in protein. They also have no cholesterol, which is only found in animals. Some nuts and seeds have relatively high amounts of fat. They are mainly considered good fats, but dieters probably still want to be aware of the fat content. Also, nut and seed protein is not a complete protein. It needs to be combined with grains or beans.
Here are the top five high-protein nuts and seeds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient database. The database uses the standard serving sizes and typical packaged styles. For example, oil-roasted and dry-roasted peanuts are measured, rather than raw peanuts.
1. Pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seed kernels are clear winners in the nut and seed category, with high protein levels and low fat levels. They have 9.35 grams of protein and 11.94 grams of fat per ounce. This is comparable to the protein levels in pork loin or ground turkey, with less fat. Next time you are making jack-o-lanterns or pumpkin soup, separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, add a little salt and toast them for a few minutes in the oven. Be sure to check them every couple of minutes as they can tip from perfectly roasted to burned quite quickly.
2. Roasted peanuts
Oil-roasted peanuts have 7.95 grams of protein and 15.97 grams of fat per ounce. The tasty bar staple gives away its fat content with its shiny gloss. However, mix some crackers in with the peanuts and you have a complete protein.
3. Sunflower seeds
Dry roasted sunflower seed kernels have 6.19 grams of protein and 14.12 grams of fat per quarter cup (which is roughly the same weight as one ounce of the other nuts and seeds on the list). That’s a little less of each nutrient than peanuts, but sunflower seeds carry the weight loss advantage of requiring extra work to consume. Unlike roasted peanuts, roasted sunflowers are typically sold in the shell, which most people crack to get at the kernel.
Dry roasted pistachio nuts have 6.05 grams of protein and 13.03 grams of fat per ounce, making them nutritionally comparable to sunflower seeds. They also need to be shelled, and the effort will burn a couple of calories on the way to consuming their calories.
Finally, almonds come in a close fifth place. Almonds are nutritionally similar to pistachios and sunflower seeds, having 6.02 grams of protein and 14.01 grams of fat per ounce.
Lower on the list, in descending order of protein content, are mixed nut products, cashews, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and pine nuts.