12 Best Sources Of Protein You Should Include In Your Diet
Most adults need about 0.8 g protein per kg of their body weight, though the amount can vary with age, health conditions, and activity levels. The top protein sources include chicken and turkey breast, fish like salmon and tuna, and eggs. For vegetarians, the options include milk and milk products like Greek yogurt. For vegans, protein-rich sources are soy, lentils, whole grains, and quinoa.
If you are one of the many people who want to commit to eating healthy, nutritious food, you must have heard that protein is an indispensable part of your diet. Dietary protein is a macronutrient – something needed in significant amounts – that helps build and repair tissue and also muscle mass. This is why bodybuilders and weight lifters have a high-protein diet. A diet rich in protein is also recommended for people looking to lose weight, since unlike carbs or fat, excess protein is not stored in the body; it is entirely burned off to yield energy.
As per the 2010 dietary recommendations by the United States Department of Agriculture, about 10–35% of the calories in the daily diet of an adult should come from protein.1 The amount also depends on factors like age, sex, activity levels, and health condition. This works out to about 0.8 g protein per kg body weight if you are not into exercising. People who exercise regularly need more protein. If you’re looking out for foods that are protein rich, here is a list that can help you out.
The problem with animal protein is that it also comes with a significant amount of saturated fat. Not so with chicken and turkey breast. These are the best sources of protein and niacin (vitamin B3). Their average protein and fat ratio is about 25 g and 3 g for a serving of about 85 g. Niacin is known to help lower cholesterol and decrease risk of cardiovascular conditions. The lean white chicken or turkey meat can be eaten grilled, baked, broiled, slow cooked, or in soup. Use minimal oil, preferably olive oil or any other unrefined oil, and season it lightly. You can even toss it into a salad and add an apple cider vinegar dressing.
Most fish are a rich source of protein and have many other nutrients, especially vitamin B6 and B12. Just 3 oz or 85 g salmon contains about 17 g protein. Salmon is also known for its omega-3 fatty acids that are great for our cardiovascular system and help reduce inflammation. Other tasty and protein-rich fish varieties include tuna (25 g per 85 g), tilapia (22 g), sardines (21 g), haddock and trout (17 g), mackerel (16.5 g), cod (15 g), perch (13 g), and halibut (12 g).
What if you don’t eat food from animal sources? Rely on soy. Soy happens to be the only vegetable that contains all 8 essential amino acids. This makes it a great meat alternative for vegetarians. You can find about 36 g protein for every 100 g soybean. It is also completely cholesterol-free and is rich in fiber, iron, and zinc. A study on soy protein lists menopause, pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, and cardiac issues as some of the areas that soy can be highly beneficial in.2 Other soy-based products like soy milk, tofu and tempeh are good sources of protein too. If you have a thyroid problem, however, don’t have a lot of it.
Eggs are awesome simply because there are so many ways to can cook them or if one is gutsy enough – have them raw. Eggnog anyone? One large egg of about 50 g contains about 6 g protein. Try getting your hands on organically grown eggs as they are free from hormones and vaccines. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, eat just 1 egg a day or skip the yolk. But if you have no major concerns, don’t sacrifice the 2.7 g protein and 218 mcg vitamin D in the yolk.3
5. Whole Grains
Wheat grains are rich in protein as well. There is about 14 g protein per 100 g wheat. Try opting for whole grain bread instead of regular white bread as it has a higher fiber content, which is an added advantage. You could also try other whole grains like oats, 1 cup (156 g) of which contains a whopping 26 g protein. If you want to go gluten-free, however, brown rice is a good option, with 1 cup (195 g) containing about 5 g protein.
6. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese contains about 11 g protein for every 100 g. It has been used in many weight loss plans as it has a very low calorie content. It has a subtle flavor unlike regular cheese that is made to undergo the aging process. If you are concerned about the sodium content, purchase the low-sodium varieties of cottage cheese. You could even make it at home.
7. Greek Yogurt
Every 100 g Greek yogurt contains about 10 g protein. It has become an indispensable source of protein for fitness freaks. Greek yogurt is different from regular yogurt as the whey is strained from it, making it thicker. It also has a lower sugar and carbohydrate content. Again, this is a protein source that you can have on the go. It saves you the time you would take to cook a protein-rich meal.
Beans are not only an abundant source of protein but also have a high fiber, calcium, and iron content. Boiled black beans (8 g in 100 g), cooked edamame (11 g in 100 g), and boiled kidney beans (9 g in 100 g) are some of the best protein sources that you can opt for, especially if you happen to be vegan or vegetarian.
Almonds are delicious nuts that are rich in protein and in fiber. Just 1 oz almonds (about 23 kernels) contains about 6 g protein. They also contain vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. They are a great when you’re on the move and don’t have time to cook a meal. They are also a healthy option for snacks between meals. Brazil nuts (4.1 g/oz), pecans, (2.6 g/oz), and walnuts (4.3 g/oz) are also great sources of protein. Another good thing about nuts is that they also contain healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
Lentils are a good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Every 100 g boiled lentils contains 9 g protein. They are also known for their folate and iron content. Folate or folic acid is essential during pregnancy. It also helps lower the risk of depression. Though lentils do not have all the essential amino acids, combining them with brown rice or whole grain bread can make them a wholesome food option.
Milk, along with other dairy products, is known for its calcium and protein content. Milk contains a unique type of complete protein called casein, which helps in muscle growth. Just 1 cup whole milk (244 g) can contain about 8 g protein. Most of us are used to consuming milk on a fairly regular basis either as a breakfast complement along with our favorite cereal or even on its own. Remember, you are never too old for milk.
Often passed off as a whole grain, quinoa is a gluten-free seed known for a high protein and low fat content. It can be eaten cooked or can even be used as stuffing. Cooked quinoa contains about 4.4 g protein for every 100 g. Quinoa also contains resistant starch which is not completely broken down by our bodies but rather converted into short-chain fatty acids by our gut bacteria. This is great for your colon. Quinoa can easily become your wheat substitute if you suffer from celiac disease.
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Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.