Cheap Sources of Healthy Protein

Beef up your intake of the most expensive energy source without lightening your wallet.

Perhaps the most cost-effective method to increase protein in your diet, whey provides the body with the ideal amino acid profile for muscle building, strength and recovery. Because whey is also fast digesting, it's well suited as a post-workout nutrition source when your body needs a quick fix of protein. However, because whey protein is isolated from whey, it contains lactose--the natural sugar found in dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, your body will likely be unable to metabolize the lactose and show signs of allergies. Cost: For the average price of $30, you can get a 2-lb. container of 100% whey protein powder. It doesn't get much cheaper than that for one of the purest protein sources available. Value: 23 grams/dollar



Everyone knows beans are typically low in cost and high in nutritious fiber, but they're also loaded with protein. Depending on the type of bean, protein amounts range from about 15 to 25 grams per cup. So chose the ones you like and go to town. One pitfall, if you've ever seen the movie Blazing Saddles, or have been in a poorly ventilated room with a bunch of guys after a barbecue, you know the potent effect beans can have on the digestive system. Cost: Super cheap. A can of protein-rich, black beans for example goes for about a buck in most supermarkets. Add another buck if you want to go organic. Value: 26 grams/dollar


Honorable Mentions


With twice as much protein as regular yogurt, this European version is the smarter choice. While one eight-ounce cup of plain, low-fat yogurt will get you 11 grams of protein, the same size Greek yogurt will give you about 20 grams of protein. Plus it's richer, fattier (the good fat), more nutritious and lower in sugar. Cost: Going Greek with your yogurt is going to cost you more than regular yogurt, but for an average of $2.00 for a single six-ounce serving it's still a great deal and deserving of a spot on this list. Value: 7.5 grams/dollar



Tempeh is the most nutritious of all soy products. Just 4 ounces of this fermented food provides 41% of the daily value for protein and only 3.7 grams of saturated fat. As an added advantage, the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Cost: At about $3.50 per serving it's a bit higher-priced than the other items on our list, but still a great value for a superior source of high quality protein. Value: 6 grams/dollar



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