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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
Seeds and nuts are one of those super versatile food groups that require minimal prep, no baking or cooking (although both can be done), and can be added to a plethora of snacks and meals. You can enjoy them as an easy-on-the-go snack, a granola addition, a crunchy salad topping, baked into some sort of muffin, or added to the top of your fish before cooking.
Their versatility is great, but what's even better is the nutrient punch that they pack. A great meatless option that both meat eaters and vegans can appreciate, nuts and seeds contain protein, essential vitamins, and healthy fats.
But how much protein, exactly? There are a few options with higher protein counts than the rest, and that's what we'll cover in this article. In addition, this post will discuss:
In its simplest form, a nut is an edible kernel surrounded by a shell. Nuts are available in all sorts of shapes and varieties and bursting with micronutrients, fiber, healthy fats, and protein.
We aren’t talking about a healthy serving of trail mix full of chocolate and other treats or the candied kind you see at a baseball game. We are referring to nature's healthy gift, a great on-the-go snack for anyone, especially someone looking to add more protein to their diet.
For example, when you're following a clean bulk workout and diet plan, healthy sources of protein, like nuts and seeds, will help you hit your goals while adding flavor to your meals.
It is common to assume that every single nut's nutrient profile is the same. But that isn’t the case. Yes, they are all healthy options, but with varying macronutrients.
Before we get too far into discussing the highest protein nuts and seeds, it’s important to first remember that there is, in fact, a difference between nuts and seeds. Let's talk about that first.
Nuts are a seed in a hard shell; however, the shell never opens to release the seed as it matures. A nut can be a seed, but a seed is not a nut.
Let’s tackle seeds first to clear up some of the confusion. Seeds contain all the vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and proteins required to build a new plant. Seeds tend to have a higher fiber and protein content, whereas nuts are more full of healthy fats.
Seed fiber can benefit people as it helps food move through the digestive tract. Nuts are generally larger compared to seeds. The appearance can also make it easy to differentiate the two.
Seeds tend to be primarily viable in raw and roasted forms. Nuts are also available in forms such as shelled, raw, roasted, salted, and dry roasted.
Both get the nod for being a better snack option since most snack foods are chips, crackers, candy, trail mix, or fast food. Nuts and seeds are both easy on-the-go options full of nutrients and are quite energy-rich. Along with the fiber we mentioned, nuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids.
We will dive deeper into some examples of each, but for now, your main takeaway should be that a nut is a kernel surrounded by a hard shell with a seed inside, and the seed does not have that outer shell.
They have their differences, but one thing they have in common is their ability to help you hit your macro goals. Once you know how much protein you need per day, you can use nuts and seeds as an addition to meals to help you hit your goals.
It’s important to recognize that if we were creating a list of strictly protein-rich foods for muscles, nuts would not be high on that list. They don't have the same nutrition profile as high protein low fat foods like chicken breast, but they will add smaller amounts of protein to your daily total.
That’s the key thing to remember. Your diet is all about hitting a daily total of protein. So yes, nuts contain protein. And when paired with other high protein foods, nuts contribute to your daily protein intake. This is particularly important for vegetarians making high protein meals.
While we're on the topic of nuts and protein, it's also important to note that most nuts do not contain all 9 essential amino acids, meaning they're not a complete protein. To make it a complete protein, you need to pair it with another food, like whole grains or beans. This is as simple as pairing nut butter with some whole great bread.
The most challenging thing with nuts is making sure you have the correct serving size. It’s easy to reach your hand in a bag of cashews and grab a handful.
This is a much better option than a handful of chips or other junk food options, but the calories add up surprisingly quickly. In fact, at nine calories per gram of fat, nuts will be higher in calories than you think.
Next time you grab your normal handful of almonds, put them on the counter and compare it to a 1-ounce serving size. More than likely, you will be shocked at how many more calories your serving contains compared to the serving size recommended, which is around 22 almonds per ounce.
But the case for nuts is not solely about the protein. As we mentioned, they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and loaded with micronutrients that your body will love. So nuts are still an amazing healthy snack if you use an appropriate serving size.
Easy ways to include nuts in your diet are by adding them to salads, portioning them out for a snack during the day, or adding a small amount to the meals you prepare. We also like adding them to bulking breakfasts for a boost of healthy fat, protein, and calories.
The takeaway with nuts is that they will undoubtedly add some protein, but be wary of how many you eat because the fat calories add up quickly.
Filled with good-for-you nutrients, there is no shortage of perks when it comes to consuming nuts and seeds.
Aside from allergies, the big drawback with nuts and seeds is that their calories and fat add up quickly. Don't avoid them (unless you're allergic!), but be aware of portions, particularly if you're following a cutting workout and diet plan.
It’s important to note for all of these options your serving size should coincide with your daily calorie and macronutrient goals. Most of these options will be portioned starting at one ounce, which is a small handful.
Here's a look at the 9 highest protein nuts and seeds.
With 9 grams of protein per ounce and around 160 calories, hemp seeds are loaded with omega-six and omega-three fatty acids. And no, they won't get you high, as there is no psychoactive compound in the seed.
Unlike some other nuts and seeds that may cause skin issues, hemp seeds and their essential fatty acids may help relieve dry skin and itchiness. If you're looking to increase how much protein you eat per serving, adding some hemp seeds to the mix will help get you there.
At 8.5 grams of protein per ounce and around 160 calories, a pumpkin seed is another option full of essential fatty acids and micronutrients.
These seeds are high in magnesium, which most of the population severely lacks. They have even been shown to improve prostate and bladder health. Check out the Best Magnesium Supplements on the market to help you fix a deficiency.
Peanuts or dry roasted nuts pack almost 7 grams of protein per ounce and contain around 170 calories per ounce. Peanuts are technically legumes, but they fall under the nuts category for this article's purposes.
Peanuts, similar to red wine, contain a powerful antioxidant known as resveratrol which may reduce cancer and heart disease. Ensure you aren’t allergic, as this one is more common for people to have issues with.
These tree nuts pack 6 grams of protein per ounce and are around 165 calories per serving. They also pack 3 grams of fiber per serving, so they are highly beneficial for digestion.
Almonds are one of the world’s best sources of vitamin E, which can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Delicious as is, blended into creamy almond butter or added to some tasty protein balls, we're certain this is will become one of your favorite nut go-tos.
Not just a popular snack at a baseball game, sunflower seeds contain 5.5 grams of protein per ounce and around 155 calories.
Sunflower seeds are a popular addition to salads and contain Vitamin B6, which improves mood and concentration and enhances memory.
Flax seeds contain around 5 grams of protein per ounce and are close to 150 calories. They are a bit higher in carbs than the other nuts at 8 grams per ounce, but flax seeds have enormous benefits for being so small.
This superfood has been around for centuries and is full of fiber, fatty acids, lignin, which reduce osteoporosis, and potassium. We recommend blending flax seeds with one of these best protein powders for a highly nutritious protein shake.
Sesame seeds also contain 5 grams of protein per ounce and 150 calories. They are also a tad higher in carbs at 8 per ounce.
Sesame seeds are proven to fight infections, and since they are packed with copper, they help support red blood cells and your immune system.
Although small, chia seeds are an easy addition to shakes and other foods. They are another superfood full of anti-inflammatory benefits. Chia seeds also help support your liver.
One serving contains just under 5 grams of protein per serving and are lower in calories at around 140.
The last nut on our list is a little higher in fat and has 4 grams of protein per serving and around 190 calories.
The fats are incredibly healthy, and the nut contains more selenium than any other nut. Selenium is vital for supporting your thyroid, immune system, and cell growth.
Let's take a closer look at some frequently asked nutrition-related questions regarding high-protein nuts.
Peanuts and almonds are at the top of the list for packing the most protein. It’s important to remember that all nuts are high in fat, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find one high in protein and low in fat.
Search for ones with higher protein and keep an eye on serving size to minimize calories from fat.
It depends on your goal when comparing walnuts and pecans. Walnuts will have more protein and higher omega-3 fatty acid content, whereas pecans are lower in carbs and higher in fiber.
No. Nuts are mainly a fat source containing protein and when paired with another protein source to make a complete protein, are a great food to eat after a workout. Meat is a better protein option as long as you keep an eye on the fat content of your choice of meat.
Nuts and seeds can be confusing, but the main takeaway here is that all of these options are full of micronutrients and health benefits that are amazing for your body.
If you can keep an eye on your serving size and daily calorie goals, nuts and seeds can be a great healthy addition to your diet and a sneaky way to add extra protein to your meals. Trust us, protein French toast tastes even better with some pecans sprinkled on top.
Remember not to rely solely on them as a protein source, but they are a great ace in the hole that’s always a better option than junk food.
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