When we think of protein packed snacks, we tend to think of animal products first (which I obviously do not advocate), and then seeds and beans, that sort of thing. I certainly don’t think to reach for the fruit bowl when I want a protein boost, and yet there are some fruits out there which have a good protein content. Some are great for adding to a smoothie bowl or protein shake and others are perfect as a snack on the go.
This isn’t to say that you can give up all other sources of plant-based protein, but if you’re thinking about tasty ways to get a little extra protein into a healthy, balanced diet, then these fruits might hold the key!
Let’s find out what they are, shall we?
- Guava in at number 1! Turns out this tropical fruit is a bit of a wonder. Not only is it high in fibre, antioxidants and Vitamins C, it also contains 4.2g of protein per cup. It’s thought to help lower blood sugar, and maintain heart health, and you can eat all of it, so there’s no waste! This might be my new favourite fruit.
- Apricot - Let’s talk fresh, first. One cup of fresh apricot contains roughly 2.3g of protein, which is not to be sniffed at for a fruit. The portion sizes and protein content change quite dramatically when the fruit is dried. A quarter of a cup of dried apricots will offer around 1.1g of protein overall - but lots more sugar, so make sure you’re not overdoing it! Dried apricots can make a great snack on the go, or can be incorporated into main meals for a bit of extra sweetness. I like mine in salads with a balsamic dressing and spicy roasted chickpeas.
- Kiwi - Whether you prefer them green or golden, kiwis packed around 2g of protein per cup. For a small fruit, they are jam packed with beneficial plant compounds, such as carotenoids. Carotenoids are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, and many types of cancer. The big debate is whether or not to eat the skin. I do - I wash it quite thoroughly first, but I don’t mind the fuzzy texture, and the skin is where most of the nutrients are!
- Blackberries - There aren’t many berries on this list (and there’s a surprise berry at number 8), but blackberries contain a huge amount of protein for a berry. You’re looking at around 2g of protein per cup of blackberries, and they are amazingly versatile - whether you add them to your breakfast plate, blitz them into a smoothie or just enjoy them on their own as a snack.
- Cherries - I LOVE cherries. I keep them frozen when they’re not in season so that I can add them to smoothies, all year around. What I didn’t know until I started my research for this article is that cherries don’t just taste good, they also contain 1.6g of protein per cup, along with Vitamins A, C, and K, and can help to promote recovery after exercise!
- Grapefruit - Not one of my favourites when I was younger as they can be a little tart unless sprinkled with huge amounts of sugar! However, they are one of the most protein rich fruits out there, with 1 medium sized grapefruit clocking in at about 1.6g of protein. However, it’s also one to watch as some of the compounds in grapefruit can negatively impact on the effectiveness of certain medications.
- Cantaloupe - One of the best tasting melons, cantaloupe offers around 1.5g of protein per cup, which works out at around 0.8g per 100g. Fresh melon is a perfect, light start or end to a meal, and is super refreshing. It’s definitely up there amongst my favourites.
- Bananas - Here’s our surprise berry! That’s right, the banana is technically classified as a berry due to it developing from one single ovary, and having a soft skin and fleshy middle. The banana is known for its high levels of potassium, and for being excellent fuel for workouts. It’s also the perfect smoothie base due to its creamy consistency and makes a pretty good ice cream substitute. A medium sized banana can offer you 1.3g of protein, making it an even more attractive snack prospect. I like mine on wholewheat toast with peanut butter for breakfast when I’m feeling particularly indulgent!
- Oranges - Everyone associates oranges with Vitamin C, but they also contain good amounts of protein and dietary fibre. However, it’s the flesh of the orange which holds these particular properties, so you won’t be getting the 1.2g of protein you can find in a medium sized orange from a glass of OJ. Sorry about that.
- Raisins (Not chocolate coated, I'm afraid) - 1 ounce of raisins - that’s around 28g, or roughly 60 individual raisins if you fancy counting them - contain just under a gram of protein. That might not seem like much, but it all helps keep our bodies and muscles healthy. Plus, you can add raisins to so many different things, that you’ll be upping your protein intake without even realising.
Bonus Round: Fruits that are mostly used in savoury dishes:
I couldn’t resist adding these in, because they are so good for you, and used in so many things!
- Avocado - Guacamole is the best dip, and I will question the tastebuds of anyone who disagrees. But did you also know that a cup of avocado (cubed or sliced) contains 3 grams of protein? No? How about this - a cup of mashed avocado has a whopping 4.6g of protein. Mainly because there’s more avocado! Not only that, it’s a great source of potassium, dietary fibre and healthy fats. I particularly enjoy adding to smoothies for an extra creamy consistency, if I’m not making a spicy guac to go on top of some veggies and rice!
- Jackfruit - You know it’s a fruit, it’s right there in the name! Jackfruit has become a mainstay of plant-based cookery because of its versatility. It can be ‘pulled’ or added to curries, and it has an uncanny ability to take on the flavours of whatever you marinade it in. Plus, it contains 2.8g of protein per cup, which is an added bonus.
Who knew a humble fruit salad could be the source of so much protein?