Best Foods to Get More Protein in Your Diet
Protein in Your Diet. Protein is, in addition to carbohydrates and fats, one of the three most important macronutrient groups that build our body. Ensure every organ, tissue, and cell function optimally. It’s derived from the foods we eat on a daily basis, and even though each person has their own individual needs for this important macronutrient. It’s generally recommended to keep our levels up; especially as we age. In this article, we’ll cover the best foods to get more protein in your diet.
What is Protein?
Protein is an essential macronutrient that is found in almost every part of your body, from muscles and bones to organs and tissue. It helps facilitate thousands of chemical reactions that allow your body to function from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. It’s the building block of your entire organism. And it’s a crucial part of your diet you should never be deficient in.
Protein is made out of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are considered to be essential to the human body. This means your body needs to obtain it from outside sources and cannot produce them itself. The other 11 can be made by your body. But they’re still important to get through food in order to maintain adequate daily levels.
These nine amino acids are known under the names of leucine, histidine, threonine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine. And they’re crucial for your long-term health and longevity. From building strong bones and healthy muscles to regulating your appetite and helping you maintain healthy body weight. Protein is a macronutrient that’s not to be neglected in your diet.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Although this question isn’t the easiest to answer, there are some basic recommendations based on studies and research. According to the National Academy of Medicine, adults are encouraged to get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. Or a little bit over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight. Notice that this is the bare minimum and the actual recommendations seem to be changing towards 1-1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
The exact amount of protein you need to thrive will depend on a variety of factors, from your age and body composition to the level of activity and health conditions. And even though it seems like a pretty straightforward calculation, millions of people worldwide. Most especially young children, don’t manage to get enough protein due to food insecurity. Leaving them at risk of malnutrition, diseases, muscle loss, and so much more.
Best Foods to Get More Protein in Your Diet
All foods are a combination of macro and micronutrients, whether they come from the plant world or the animal kingdom. Some naturally contain higher levels of protein than others. And are therefore considered to be a great source of this essential macronutrient.
However, not all high-protein foods are created the same. Most of them are complete proteins, meaning they contain all 20 amino acids we need to thrive, but others need to be combined in order to contain all of them. All animal-derived protein is a complete protein, while there’s a variety amongst plants and mushrooms.
Animal-Derived Protein Sources
Due to their property of being complete proteins. Animal-derived foods are considered to be the best and easiest way to get your protein intake for the day. Still, some of them contain a high level of saturated fats so we recommend opting for lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy. Some of the best protein-rich foods coming from the animal world include:
- Lean meat. Chicken, turkey, lean red meat, and lean game meat are a great source of all amino acids, vitamin B12, inc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. When buying red and game meat, always look for at least 90% lean options as that brings the total fat level to a minimum.
- Fish. Considered to be incredibly healthy for your overall health, but especially fatty fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eggs. Each egg contains around 6 grams of protein per serving, and they’re an excellent way of increasing your protein intake. However, the egg yolk is rich in saturated fats so it should be eaten in moderation.
- Greek Yogurt. Studied for its incredible impact on human health and well-being, only six ounces of Greek yogurt contain anywhere from 15-20 grams of protein per serving. Whether you go for low-fat, non-fat, or full-fat. You’re getting plenty of protein every time you choose to add some Greek yogurt to your daily meals.
- Cottage Cheese. Cheese, in general, is high in saturated fat and it’s why it’s generally not recommended as the best choice for everyday consumption. Still, cottage cheese is an exception. One cup contains around 25-28 grams of protein, and it’s pretty low in fat.
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Knowing which foods contain high levels of protein amongst plants isn’t just helpful to those following a vegetarian. It’s an amazing way to get a combination of proteins even for carnivores. Whether they want to lower their intake of animal products. Or are simply interested in replenishing their vitamin and mineral intake along the way. Plants are incredibly rich in micronutrients and are therefore highly recommended to be the main part of each meal, no matter your dietary preferences. Here are some of the plant-based food sources that are rich in protein:
- Pumpkin seeds – one cup of pumpkin seeds contain a whopping 12 grams of protein and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and unsaturated healthy fats. However, they are not a complete protein as they contain very low levels of the amino acids methionine and tryptophan. Should always be paired with other plant-based protein sources such as whole grain rice, other seeds, and nuts.
- Chickpeas and chickpea pasta – even though they’re not a complete protein, chickpeas are an amazing source of this essential macronutrient as they contain an incredible 35-38 grams of protein per cup. In addition, chickpeas are high in folate, fiber, iron, and phosphorus, nourishing you from the inside out. Chickpea pasta has recently become highly popular amongst low-carb lovers as it supplies you with high protein content without spiking your blood sugar levels. Making it a healthy alternative to your favorite pasta dishes.
- Hemp seeds – another plant source from the seed world, hemp seeds contain around 10 grams of protein per ounce, and since they’re tiny, they’re usually not eaten in larger quantities. They are also rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. They are actually considered to be a complete protein as they contain adequate levels of all nine essential amino acids.
- Black beans – beans are some of the best plant-based sources of protein as they contain 15 grams of protein per cup. They lack methionine and tryptophan which doesn’t make them a complete protein. But they’re rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, magnesium, and potassium, just to name a few.
- Quinoa – this pseudo-grain is often confused about where it falls in the plant world. Sometimes considered a grain and sometimes a seed, quinoa is extremely high in protein for a grain, and it’s also a complete protein which means it doesn’t have to be combined with other plants for the full package. One cup contains eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber. In addition, it provides high levels of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, and thiamin (Vitamin B1).
- Lentils – only one cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein per serving, and it can easily keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Lentils are also rich in fiber, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. They’re also rich in polyphenols that act as antioxidants, protecting you from free radicals and oxidative damage. However, they are low in methionine and cystine and are therefore not considered to be a complete protein. So they need to be paired up with other plant-based proteins.
- Almonds and almond butter – nuts are generally high in healthy fats and protein, but almonds have one of the highest levels of protein, packing seven grams per cup. They are also rich in a variety of additional nutrients, from fiber and vitamin E to calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are considered to be incomplete proteins so they need to be complemented with other sources of protein. Due to their low carbohydrate and high monounsaturated fat content. Almond butter is a much healthier alternative to the popular peanut butter.
- Peanut butter – even though it’s gotten a bad rap over the years, peanut butter is actually packed with protein. One serving (around two tablespoons) contains eight grams of incomplete protein. Still, there are better alternatives for more frequent use. Such as almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, and pumpkin seed butter.
- Sprouted grain bread – when it comes to carbohydrates, it’s almost impossible to imagine a high-protein product. Still, it might surprise you how one slice of sprouted grain bread contains around 15 grams of complete protein. Sprouted grains are also easier to digest, increase the nutrient profile of grains. They’re naturally lower in carbohydrates, making this type of bread a lower-glycemic alternative to mainstream bread options on the market.
- Tofu – probably the most popular vegetarian and vegan source of protein, tofu is made from soybeans and only one cup contains 20 grams of complete protein. Even though it’s been through a wringer through the last decade, tofu is actually a high-quality source of plant-based protein when it’s coming from non-GMO soybeans and has been minimally processed. In addition to being high in protein, tofu is also rich in copper, manganese, calcium, iron, selenium, and vitamin A.
Protein is one of the most essential macronutrients you can obtain from your diet and getting adequate amounts on a daily basis is crucial for your overall health and well-being. These are just some of the foods that can help you hit your protein numbers for the day, and the more diverse, the better. Different protein sources bring on a variety of different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other micronutrient compounds that can only help optimize your body’s functions, from head to toe.