We sometimes wonder if we have more options of foods that contain protein in Nigeria.
Many of us are so tired of the “very few” options we have and we just want more. I understand the struggle of being so restricted to the ‘usual protein staple foods’ (you know what I mean). Well, it gives me joy to break this news to you; THERE IS MORE! THERE IS SO MUCH MORE!!
Would it surprise you to know that we often pass some foods by without even knowing the proteinaceous value that they carry? I can imagine too….
Let’s do a brief introduction to protein. The word Protein is derived from the Greek work Proteios which means ‘primary’ or ‘in the lead’. It is the second most abundant substance in the body and it is the most important nutrient. Proteins play numerous roles, some of them include: transport nutrients throughout the body; help to build and repair tissues; improve bone health; help to detoxify the liver; protect against teeth cavities; promote immune-competence and more.
Given this juicy piece of information about protein, there is no doubt that the body really needs this nutrient. The amazing thing is that there are different types of food that are rich in protein. Let us now take a look at some of the foods that can give us fair amounts of protein. Good part is that they are available in Nigeria!
- Brown Rice
You are probably wondering how brown rice contains protein. Well, it actually does. In fact protein powders are sometimes made from brown rice. A cup of long grain brown rice weighing 202 grams which has 248calories contains 5.54 grams of protein. It is good to note though that brown rice should not be consumed very frequently because of the presence of Arsenic (a natural metalloid chemical) that it absorbs from the soil. It affects white rice too, just that brown rice has 80% more arsenic than white.
It is likely that you have the same thought about millet. You are correct, it is richer in carbohydrates than it is in protein. But what you might not know is that millets are small-grained cereals that provide 11 grams of protein per 100grams, which is fair enough.
Oat is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed. It’s a whole-grain treasure that is a good source of protein at 11 – 17% of dry weight. A serving of ½ cup dry oatmeal made with water gives 150 calories and 5 grams. A cup of oats contains 11grams of proteins.
- Pinto Beans
This is the most common type of beans we consume here in Nigeria. It is also used to make bean cakes (Akara) and bean pudding (Moi Moi). 100grams of pinto beans gives 21grams of protein. We can get at least 20% of the needed protein in one cup serving of this.
- Ewedu & Gbegiri
Jute leaf, locally known as Ewedu is a fine source and protein. 100grams provides 3.7grams of protein. It even gets better when it’s mixed with gbegiri as gbegiri is made from beans. That is why some call it bean soup.
Almonds are the wholesome seeds of the almond tree. It is safer to classify them as seeds and not nuts. About 23 almonds provide 6grams of protein alongside fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and calcium.
You may not find this type of nuts in the local markets but they are available in malls, large stores or even online shopping platforms. Pistachios supply the body with20 grams of protein per 100gram.
- Chia seeds
Chia seeds are unrefined, edible seeds from a desert plant related to mint. In Mayan, the word ‘chia’ means strength, which is not surprising because these seeds are small but mighty. They are a good source quality protein, giving 17grams per 100grams. One ounce serving contains 5.6 grams. They contain fiber, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. Mixed with water, they can take the place of eggs in vegan diets. Chia seeds can be eaten cooked or raw, but they should be added to another food or soaked before eating.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a grain crop that is grown for its consumable seeds. It’s a seed that is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain. One cup provides 8 grams of protein.
Although it’s not common in Nigeria, it can still be found in some stores. Broccoli is a cabbage family vegetable grown for its nourishing flower heads. Protein makes up 29% of the vegetable’s dry weight. Broccoli is higher in protein than most vegetables. It can be eaten steamed, roasted or in salads.
It is locally known as groundnut. It is a legume crop grown mainly for its digestible seeds. Peanuts are loaded with 9 grams of protein per ounce and 26grams per 100 grams.
Tofu is made of dense soy milk and is shaped into solid white blocks of different degrees of softness. It can be firm, soft, extra firm or silk-like. Here in Nigeria, we call it Wara Soya or Beske.
Tofu is an excellent source of protein, selenium, manganese, iron, calcium and magnesium. Tofu contains all nine essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) that your body cannot make on its own. A 3-ounce slice of tofu is packed with protein and does a good job in keeping you full for a long period. 100grams contain 8g of protein.
- Lean beef
Beef is the meat gotten from the skeletal muscle of cattle. A lean cut of beef is a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams). Lean beef is a source of high-quality protein, various vitamins and minerals especially iron and zinc. The presence of these minerals makes it advisable to consume beef moderately as they can cause oxidation in the body. The protein content of cooked lean beef is about 26-27%, with just 3 ounces supplying 22 grams of protein.
Edible mushrooms are fleshy fruit bodies of species of fungi that appear below or above the ground. Oyster mushrooms are one of the biggest types of edible mushrooms. It is important to note that mushrooms with red on the cap or stem should be avoided. Mushrooms in can are also readily available in stores. 100 grams of oyster mushrooms provides 3.3 grams of protein. Mushrooms can be eaten stir fried, sautéed or roasted.
- Green Beans
Green beans are discerned from the many other varieties of beans in that green beans are harvested and consumed with their surrounding pods before the bean seeds inside fully grow and this is why the protein content is not so high. 1 cup (125 grams) of boiled green beans contain 2.4 grams of protein.
A standard snail consists of 80% water, 15% protein and 2.4% fat. Snails provide a low calorie source of protein (unless you soil them in butter). 100 grams of snail provides 16 grams of protein. Snails have anti-cancer properties and they boost the immune system. They also contain calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, and vitamins E, A, K and B12.
Eggs are a very good source of high-quality protein. More than half the protein is found in the egg white. Eggs are rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. 1 large egg (50 grams) would give 6 grams of protein.
- Turkey breast
Turkey breast is naturally high in protein. A three-ounce serving of boneless, skinless turkey breast provides 26 grams of protein. Cooked turkey breast meat contains 28grams of protein per 100 grams, which is over ½ of an adult’s recommended daily allowance. The average adult is advised to eat around 50grams of protein every day, eating turkey meat can really help with this.
- Pork loin
Pork loin is a cut of meat from a pig, created from the tissue along the dorsal side of the rib cage. It comes from the back of the animal. It is a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals. Pork loin is high in protein, with 100 grams of whole, broiled loin giving 27 grams of protein.
Salmon is an oily food fish rich in protein and omega – 3 fatty acids. Raw wild salmon consists of 69% water, 20% protein, 6% fat and no carbohydrates. You get 24 grams of protein per 100 grams of cooked salmon.
- Soya beans
Soya beans is a type of legume that is very important for human and even animal consumption. It is widely grown for its edible bean which has many uses. Soya beans contains all the essential amino acids. One cup (172 grams) of soya beans contains 29 grams of protein. Wow!
- Chicken breast
Chicken breast is the leanest part of a chicken. Three ounces (85 grams) will provide you about 27 grams of protein.
- Wheat bread
Wheat bread is a healthier alternative to white bread as it contains more nutrients and fiber. One slice (28 grams) will provide 3.6 grams of protein.
- Whole wheat pasta
Yes it is true that pasta is generally carbohydrate but it does contain a fair share of protein as well. One cup of cooked whole wheat pasta gives 7.5 grams of protein. You can even boost the protein content of the meal by adding cuts of meat.
Spinach is a superstar vegetable that is packed with various nutrients in a low-calorie package. It is an amazing source of zinc, dietary fiber, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B1 and choline. It really helps with overall health. 100 grams of spinach contains 2.9 grams of protein which accounts for 50% of its calories. Spinach can be eaten raw in salads, stir fried or cooked.
- Coconut milk
Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of grown brown coconuts. It is an excellent milk alternative. One cup (240 grams) of coconut milk provides 5 grams of protein.
These are round, single-seeded tree nuts that belong to the walnut family. They are really nutritious nuts that have more antioxidant activity and healthy omega-3 fats than any other common nut. They are a great source of healthy fats, protein and fiber. 100 grams of walnuts will provide 15 grams of protein.
Cashews are low in sugar, rich in plant proteins, heart-healthy fats and fiber. They are also packed with minerals like Copper, Manganese and Magnesium. Roasted cashew is generally considered to be safer for consumption. Your body gets 18 grams of protein from 100 grams of cashew.
- Cow milk
Milk is a natural food source for mammals and it supports a growing body. Cow milk is not safe for those that are lactose intolerant as they would not be able to digest lactose. Cow milk is a great source pf protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine. It contains 8 grams of protein per cup.
Shrimps are rich in several minerals and vitamins as well as in protein. They are low in calories, carbohydrates and carbs and have a variety of health benefits. If you do not care for shrimps or if you are allergic, you can go for boneless chicken breast instead. A 100-gram weight of cooked shrimp will provide 24 grams of protein.
Peas are a good source of vegetable protein. They are high in dietary fiber, low in fat and without cholesterol. They are high in vitamin C which makes it a good immune system booster.
A cup of green peas for example, contains 8 grams of protein.
- Cottage cheese
This is a natural cheese curd product with moderate flavor. It is high in protein, B vitamins, calcium, selenium, phosphorus and helps to build muscle. Your body gets 11 grams of protein per 100 gram.
- Soy milk
Soy milk protein is of vegetable origin and has no lactose, which makes it a better option for individuals with lactose intolerance. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidant in soy milk promote good health. It comes from plants, hence it is naturally free from cholesterol and very low in saturated fats. A cup (243 grams) contains 8 grams of milk.
This is a brewed milk drink that is made from kefir grains. It has a sharp, pungent taste. It is similar to yogurt but with a thinner consistency. It is a drink rich in protein as it provides approximately 10 grams per cup.
Sardines are oily and it can be a major turn off for most people. Sardines are highly nutritious. The ones we buy in cans are denser with nutrients, with one serving having as much as 17 grams of protein and 50% of the recommended daily calcium intake for just 90 – 150 calories.
Chickpeas are also called Garbanzo beans and they are a great source of plant-based protein. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and a healthy substitute for meat in vegetarian and vegan diet. One cup (200 grams) contains a whopping 39 grams of protein.
Lentils belong to the legume family. They have considerably high amount protein, fiber, iron and folate, but low in fat. They are easily cooked in 5 – 20 minutes. One cup (198 grams) gives 18 grams of protein.
- Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, zinc, fatty acids, antioxidants and protein. They promote good heart health as they lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A weight of 100 grams will provide 19 grams of protein.
- Melon seeds (Egusi)
They are a rich source of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. They improve appetite and skin and have antioxidant properties. The proportion of protein weighs up with that in most legume seeds. The high level of essential amino acids makes the protein composition outstanding.
Tuna can also be called tunny. It is a saltwater fish that belongs to the mackerel family. It is popularly sold in cans. It is so high in protein that 100 grams gives 28 grams of protein.
It is a seafood with incredible amounts of protein. A good source of vitamin B12, niacin, iron, copper and selenium. A 5-ounce serving of crayfish provides about 25 grams of protein.
Yogurt is a dairy product made by bacterial fermentation of milk. It is rich in protein and other important nutrients and is very good for heart health. Greek (nonfat) yogurt of 170 grams will provide 17 grams of protein.
Okra is a warm season vegetable that is rich in magnesium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin A. It is good for pregnant women in that it contains folate. The less cooked, the more nutritious it is. 100 grams of Okra with about 33 calories provides 1.9 grams of protein.
Prawns are considered to be among the healthiest foods in the world. They are very low in calories and they provide complete protein in that they contain all nine amino acids in the right proportion, which is required for the body to function properly. It is so rich in protein that 100 grams contains about 25 grams of protein.
There you have it, the list of proteinous foods in Nigeria! It is really amazing to know that we have these many options of foods that contain good amounts of protein, and not just that, but also that they are available here in Nigeria. It is not up for the argument that our bodies require protein to function properly and this list has made it even easier for us in stepping up our protein game!