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16 Best Nuts for Protein (+ Best Seeds for a Boost)

16 Best Nuts for Protein (+ Best Seeds for a Boost)

Getting the right amount of protein in your diet can be tricky, especially if you don’t eat animal products. 

Even if you consume animal protein, if you’re working out hard, whether you’re a power athlete or distance runner, it can be hard to get enough protein without slamming protein shakes all day.

So, what options are there in terms of whole-food snacks to easily up your daily protein intake?

Well, good news, we’re going to review some of our favorites from the nut and seed family here.

While plant-based protein powder, grass-fed whey protein, and clean grass-fed, pastured, or wild-caught meats such as Epic Meat Bars (my favorite is the Bison-Bacon-Cranberry and the Lamb-Current-Mint) are always an option, introducing various nuts and seeds into your daily regime is also an excellent anti-inflammatory way to improve your protein, fiber, and fat intake—the “good” fats, of course. 

When it comes to reducing inflammation, nuts are a healthy alternative to most snack foods. Many popular snacks are highly processed, full of artificial flavor enhancers, and have several inflammation-causing ingredients that do little more than cause fatigue and joint pain.  

So, if your primary focus is adding some protein to your snack-game without adding inflammation, get ready to learn the best nuts to snack on and the top seeds to including in your shakes, smoothies, or meals. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our protein in nuts chart that you can save or download for easy reference!

Why You Should Consider High Protein Nuts and Seed

Why are nuts and seeds anti-inflammatory?

Nuts (and many seeds as well) are jam-packed with phytochemicals and flavonoids a.k.a. really healthy naturally-occurring beneficial chemical compounds. These compounds act as antioxidants and are associated with reducing inflammation, being anti-viral, and limit the growth of problematic cells.[1]

A nice trick you can do to boost the digestion and bioavailability of all the good stuff like phytochemicals and flavonoids in nuts and seeds is to soak or “sprout” them. Sprouting a food involves soaking in water for an extended period of time or even overnight.

Sprouting a food improves digestibility and often enhances the nutrient profile by essentially encouraging the nut or seed to slightly open up and be more easily broken down to serve as nutrition for the sprout as if it were sprouting in soil. When sprouting nuts or seeds they’re soaked for such a short time that the teeny-tiny sprouts are rarely if every not even noticeable from the human eye through your stomach and the gastrointestinal system will thank you as it can more easily break them down.

If you’re worried about your saturated fat intake, high protein nuts and seeds are laden with healthy fats such as omegas 3 and 6. There are small amounts of saturated fats in some nuts, but they are still regarded as one of the most nutritious snack foods. 

Nuts are also rich in several vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
Bowls of almonds, cashews, and pecans which are high protein nut sources.

16 BEST NUTS FOR PROTEIN
Almonds

Packing an impressive 6g of protein per ounce, almonds are among the most protein-rich nuts on the market. They also boast exceptional levels of antioxidants and unsaturated fat. 

Including one serving of almonds per day in your diet may decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease due to their ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.[2]

Almonds are a popular, versatile punch of protein. You can eat them whole, slice them into slivers, or crush them up to add a nutty, crunchy texture to vegetable dishes.

Pistachios

Three pistachios with two in the shell and one not in the shell.

When looking at the protein in nuts chart, pistachios (like almonds) possess 6g of protein per ounce. They are famous for their digestive and anti-inflammatory properties and contain high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids. 

Buying pistachios in their shells help slow down your eating, which means you will only need a few before you feel satisfied. The slower you eat, the better, as it increases the gut hormones that make you feel full. This reduces your food intake, and you don’t end up overeating.

Cashews

You will be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t love these nutritious nuts. However, try to avoid buying the roasted and salted variety. Roasting nuts can affect their nutrient content, reduce their healthy fats and promote the formation of acrylamide, a potentially harmful substance.  

Raw cashews contain 5g of protein per ounce and are rich in copper, manganese, and magnesium. These nutrients help your body produce energy, maintain a healthy immune system, and boost brain function. 

See why roasting them is a bad idea? You’d run the risk of losing all their potency!

Protein in nuts chart listing grams of protein per serving for each kind of nut.

Macadamias 

Macadamia nuts are well known for their potential to aid gut health and prevent diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 

While not as rich in protein as the aforementioned high protein nuts and seeds, they still possess 2g of protein per ounce and are rich in healthy monosaturated fat. 

These nuts are amongst the more expensive varieties. This is due to macadamia trees only bearing fruit after seven years, and that harvesting the nuts is done by hand!

Walnuts

Bowl of walnuts.

Walnuts are incredibly healthy as they contain high concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—an omega-3 fatty acid that reduces the risk of heart disease. They are also an excellent source of plant protein, containing 4g of protein per ounce. 

Adding walnuts to your diet may improve blood flow and brain function. They are, however, dense in calories, so it’s best to eat them in moderation. Too many can lead to diarrhea, so a handful a day is more than enough to give you a protein boost.

Pecans

While well-loved as a dessert ingredient, raw pecan nuts are exceptionally nutritious by themselves. They possess 3g of protein per ounce and contain high amounts of polyphenols—the naturally occurring compounds with remarkable antioxidant effects discussed earlier.

Pecans can lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol, and contain high volumes of vitamin E and magnesium. They also promote healthy hair and slow down hair loss. They are rich in amino acids, and this supports healthy blood flow to the scalp.

A mildly suitable meat substitute, these nuts are a tasty addition to just about every dish—savory or sweet.

Brazil Nuts

Bowl of Brazil nuts for a protein snack.

Hailing from the Amazon Rainforest, these nuts have similar protein levels to walnuts (4g) and are among the best-known sources of selenium. Selenium deficiency is rare but has been known to occur in people undergoing treatment for kidney disease. 

When given a serving of Brazil nuts every day, kidney patients see an improvement in their selenium levels which has potent antioxidant effects on the body. 

However, the opposite effect can also be an issue. You can overdose on Brazil nuts!

Each nut contains between 68-91mcg of selenium, and if you eat too many, you’ll feel nauseous. A serving a day is adequate and will keep your selenium levels at their optimum but not over the top.

Peanuts

Interestingly, peanuts are technically classified as legumes but are similar in nutrient content to tree nuts. 

Peanuts have 4g of protein per ounce and may lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, they are often sold with added sugar, salt, and oil which negates their health benefits. 

It’s also important to note that peanuts tend to contain higher amounts of naturally-occurring mold (from the growing process) so it’s best to avoid consumption if experiencing health issues, fatigue, or if you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.

Buy raw peanuts whenever possible, even if it means you need to de-shell them. The same principle as eating pistachios applies; you’ll feel fuller sooner. 

Hazelnuts

One full hazelnut and one in shell cracked open.

Another one to add to the high protein in nuts chart, hazelnuts contain 6g of protein per one-ounce serving. Studies have also shown that they improve the function of blood vessels, lower inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Like other tree nuts, they have a high vitamin E content.

The daily recommended intake of hazelnuts is a small handful or around 20 at a time. This will give you a protein boost and provide significant health benefits.

Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are exceptionally good for vegans and vegetarians due to their high concentrations of iron and plant protein. They possess 4g of protein per ounce and are rich in magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. 

The nutrient profile of pine nuts makes them ideal for managing the symptoms of diabetes, improving heart health, and aiding brain function.

Chestnuts

Chestnuts are unusual in that they are high in carbohydrates and low in fat. This makes them exceptionally beneficial for energy levels. They have a slightly lower protein content than most healthy nuts, containing 1g of protein per ounce. However, they are still loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Bowls of hemp, chia, flax, and protein seeds which may be high-protein snacks.

The Best Seeds for Protein

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have become extremely popular in recent years due to their high protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acid content. You’ll often find them in shakes, smoothies, as well as vegan and plant-based recipes.

These tasty little seeds contain 5g of protein per ounce and are effective at fighting bone disorders such as osteoporosis.

Flaxseed

Apart from having a high protein content, flaxseed is rich in other vital nutrients such as vitamin B1, vitamin B6, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. 

The majority of their health benefits come from their high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Flaxseed contains 1.3 grams of protein per tablespoon serving.

Poppy Seeds

Similar to flaxseed, poppy seeds are high in fiber, protein, and essential minerals. One tablespoon serving of poppy seeds contains roughly 1.6g of protein. They are an excellent source of manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, and iron.

Pumpkin Seeds

These flavorsome, immune-boosting seeds possess 5g of protein per ounce and are tasty additions to home-made bread or healthy desserts. Pumpkin seeds aid in the management of diabetes, insomnia, and inflammation. 

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent addition to meals and shakes. If you’re making a grass-fed whey protein shake, you can add a little extra oomph by throwing in a handful of these seeds.

Quinoa 

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah as we know everyone gets it wrong) sets itself apart from other high protein nuts and seeds as a source of all 9 essential amino acids – forming a complete protein. This is quite rare among plant-based foods, making quinoa a wise addition to any diet, especially those who are a vegan or vegetarian. 

Essentially, quinoa acts like it’s a whole grain, but it’s not. It’s a seed from the goosefoot plant that looks a lot like a weed. Goosefoot is a close relation of spinach and beets.

It contains roughly 1.2g of protein per ounce and is an outstanding source of fiber. The resistant starch in quinoa is also beneficial to gut health. You can prepare it in the same way as barley or brown rice, and you can even find quinoa flour or flakes. 

It turns out that the best nuts for protein are easy to find, and just like the best protein bars, they are delicious too! If you need a little more protein-packed into your diet, get snacking on some of these all-natural superfoods.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22153059/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S101836472030015X
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/health-benefits-of-walnuts-2018081314526

About The Author

Michael Bogden

Michael is a residency and fellowship trained sports physical therapist. A life long advocate for exercise and nutrition, he unexpectedly ran into issues with fatigue and recovery which significantly hindered his training. After working closely with his wife, Kylene, a dietitian trained in functional nutrition, he learned an entirely new approach to eating and living a more holistic lifestyle. This dramatic life change lead to remarkable improvement in his overall energy and performance. In 2017, with the help of a Functional Sports Nutrition approach, he improved his half marathon PR by 5 minutes. These improvements inspired him to create the FWDfuel blog with Kylene in order to spread the word so that others could experience the same success.

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