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10 unusual protein sources

Boost your intake with these hopping good ideas


(Image: Naveen Mathew)

Traditional protein sources like red meat and fish have something of a bad reputation these days – bad for you, bad for the environment, or both.

But there are other sources of protein to consider, says nutritionist Dominic Swift, including a new type of flour that’s got environmentalists jumping with excitement…


A little bit of protein (2g per 100g), a lot of healthy fats and vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and riboflavin make avocados a great choice. Add to that the manganese, potassium and folic acid and you’ve got one tasty superfood. And how’s this for a recommendation – Mick Jagger swears by them. I know – it’s only avocado – but I like it, like it, yes I do.

Brussels sprouts

Love them or loathe them, this Christmas dinner staple is a protein meal (3.5g/100g) you can’t afford to miss. Sprouts are high in anti-cancer compounds, protein and vitamins. And provided you don’t overcook them, they taste great.


Laverbread has kept the Welsh on-song for generations. Seaweed harvested by hand is cooked for 10 hours, formed into cakes and fried in bacon fat. Delicious, nutritious, cheap and protein-rich (6g/100g).


The earliest bagels were baked in Poland in the 17th century and have since crossed the Atlantic to become a favourite with New Yorkers. Energy-dense and packing a mean protein punch (10g/100g), try eating one with smoked salmon for a double protein whammy.


The Incas called it ‘the mother grain’, and with good reason because quinoa contains all eight amino acids, making it a complete protein (14g/100g). With a slightly nutty taste, it makes an ideal alternative to rice or couscous.

Chia seeds

These are a traditional food of the Tarahumara, an indigenous people of Northwest Mexico and famous endurance runners. Tiny seeds of the Salvia hispanica, a flowering member of the mint family, chia are packed with nutrients and contain heaps of protein (17g/100g).


Tempeh is made by the controlled fermentation of soybeans. The result is a cakelike product with a firm texture and an earthy taste. Stir-fry it, put it in a sandwich, stew it or sprinkle over a salad, this high-protein (19g/100g) food is an Indonesian classic and well worth a try.


This is a mollusc with a lot going for it. As well as containing a hefty portion of protein (24g/100g), moules are also a source of zinc, vitamin B12, iron and selenium. A low-fat, protein-rich taste of the sea.


Another complete protein, spirulina is an algae that grows in tropical lakes. The Aztecs used to eat it, as did people in Africa, Asia and South America – and now you can too.

Very high in protein (60g/100g), and crammed with vitamins and minerals, spirulina has been a superfood since the 1970s.

Cricket flour

Cricket flour is a new invention that’s got environmentalists and nutritionists hopping. Made from 100% ground crickets, not only is it a protein heavyweight (69g/100g), but because crickets take less time, space and energy to grow than meat, it’s good for the planet too.

It’s yet to receive clearance from the UK’s Food Standards Agency, but is already available in continental Europe, and part of a high-profile Kickstarter project in the US.

About the author

Dominic Swift has a Master of Science (MSc) in Strength & Conditioning, Nutrition & Supplementation from the University of Edinburgh. He is currently working as a product developer for Supplement Centre.

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.