- 20 Delicious High Protein Foods to Eat
- Other high protein nuts
- Other types of cheese that are high in protein
- Similar options
- Other high protein legumes
- Other high protein seeds
- Is too much protein harmful?
- Eat More Protein: 9 Easy Ways to Ensure You Get Enough | Spartan Race
- 1. Get a Handle on Your Grams
- 2. Power Up Right the Gate
- 3. Match Up Your Snacks
- 4. Add Buzz to Your Smoothies
- 5. Sprinkle Protein Powder on Cereal
- 6. Pick a Better Milk
- 7. Make Eating Eggs Easier
- 8. Choose A Couple New Nuts
- 9. Look ForThesein the Produce Section
- Will Eating More Protein Help Your Body Gain Muscle Faster?
- How to eat more protein: Tips and tricks
- Chickpeas and hummus
- Nuts and nut butters
- Chia seeds
- Choosing Healthy Protein – HelpGuide.org
- The health benefits of protein
- High-quality vs. low-quality protein
- Good sources of high-quality protein
- Tips to increase your protein intake
- To avoid problems when increasing protein intake
- Protein powders, shakes, and bars
- Using protein supplements
20 Delicious High Protein Foods to Eat
Protein makes up the building blocks of organs, muscles, skin, and hormones. Your body needs protein to maintain and repair tissues. Meanwhile, children need it for growth.
Studies show that eating protein can also help you lose weight and belly fat while increasing your muscle mass and strength (1, 2).
A diet that is high in protein may also help lower blood pressure, fight diabetes, and more (3).
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.
However, many health and fitness experts believe you need more than that to function optimally.
Here is a list of 20 delicious foods that are high in protein.
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Whole eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods available.
They’re an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, eye-protecting antioxidants, and brain nutrients that you need.
Whole eggs are high in protein, but egg whites are almost pure protein.
Egg and foods containing egg are not suitable for people with an egg allergy.
Protein content: 33% of calories in a whole egg. One large egg has 6 grams of protein and 78 calories (4).
Almonds are a popular type of tree nut.
They are rich in essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
Almonds are not suitable for people who have a nut allergy.
Protein content: 15% of calories. 6 grams and 164 calories per ounce (28 grams) (5).
Other high protein nuts
Pistachios (13% of calories) and cashews (11% of calories).
Chicken breast is one of the most popular protein-rich foods.
If you eat it without the skin, most of its calories come from protein.
Chicken breast is also very easy to cook and versatile. It can taste delicious in a wide range of dishes.
Protein content: 75% of calories. One roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams and only 284 calories (6).
Oats are among the healthiest grains available.
They provide healthy fibers, magnesium, manganese, thiamine (vitamin B1), and several other nutrients.
Protein content: 14% of calories. One cup of oats has 11 grams and 307 calories (7).
Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that is low in fat and calories.
It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and various other nutrients.
Protein content: 69% of calories. One cup (226 grams) of low fat cottage cheese with 1% fat contains 28 grams of protein and 163 calories (8).
Other types of cheese that are high in protein
Parmesan cheese (38% of calories), Swiss cheese (30%), mozzarella (29%), and cheddar (26%).
Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, is a very thick type of yogurt.
It pairs well with sweet and savory dishes. It has a creamy texture and is high in many nutrients.
Protein content: 69% of calories. One 6-ounce (170-gram) container has 17 grams of protein and only 100 calories (9).
When buying Greek yogurt, opt for one without added sugar. Full fat Greek yogurt is also high in protein but contains more calories.
Regular full fat yogurt (24% of calories) and kefir (40%).
Milk contains a little of nearly every nutrient that your body needs.
It’s a good source of high quality protein, and it’s high in calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
If you are concerned about your fat intake, low or zero fat milk is an option.
For those with lactose intolerance, consuming milk can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms. People with a milk allergy can wise experience severe symptoms, so dairy milk is not a suitable option for them either.
For those who wish to drink milk but either cannot tolerate it or follow a purely plant-based diet, alternatives include soy milk.
Protein content: 21% of calories. One cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein and 149 calories (10). One cup of soy milk contains 6.3 grams of protein and 105 calories (11).
Broccoli is a healthy vegetable that provides vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium.
It also provides bioactive nutrients that may help protect against cancer.
Calorie for calorie, it’s high in protein compared with most vegetables.
Protein content: 33% of calories. One cup (96 grams) of chopped broccoli has 3 grams of protein and only 31 calories (12).
Lean beef is high in protein, as well as highly bioavailable iron, vitamin B12, and large amounts of other vital nutrients.
Protein content: 53% of calories. One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of lean sirloin steak contains 25 grams of protein and 186 calories (13).
Beef is suitable for people on a low carb diet.
Tuna is a popular type of fish. You can eat it hot in a range of baked dishes or cold in salads.
It’s low in fat and calories but a rich source of protein.
other fish, tuna is a good source of various nutrients and contains omega-3 fats.
Protein content: 84% of calories in tuna canned in water. One can (142 grams) contains 27 grams of protein and only 128 calories (14).
Quinoa is a popular pseudo-cereal that many consider a superfood.
It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Quinoa has numerous health benefits.
Protein content: 15% of calories. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa has 8 grams and 222 calories (15).
When you're pressed for time and unable to cook, a protein supplement can come in handy.
Whey protein is a high quality protein from dairy foods that can help build muscle mass. It may also aid weight loss.
If you'd to try whey protein supplements, a large variety is available online.
Protein content: Varies between brands. Over 90% of the calories may be protein, and there may be 20–50 grams of protein per serving.
Lentils are a type of legume.
They are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese, and various other nutrients.
Lentils are among the world's best sources of plant-based protein, and they’re an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Protein content: 31% of calories. One cup (198 grams) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams and 230 calories (16).
Other high protein legumes
Soybeans (33% of calories), kidney beans (24%), and chickpeas (19%).
Ezekiel bread is different from most other breads.
It’s made of organic and sprouted whole grains and legumes, including millet, barley, spelt, wheat, soybeans and lentils.
Compared with most breads, Ezekiel bread is high in protein, fiber, and various important nutrients.
Protein content: 20% of calories. One slice contains 4 grams and 80 calories.
Pumpkins contain edible seeds called pumpkin seeds.
They’re incredibly high in many nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Protein content: 22% of calories. One ounce (28 grams) has 9 grams of protein and 158 calories (17).
Other high protein seeds
Flax seeds (12% of calories), sunflower seeds (12%), and chia seeds (11%).
Turkey breast is similar to chicken breast in many ways.
It consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and calories. It also tastes delicious and is high in various vitamins and minerals.
Protein content: 82% of calories. One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving contains 26 grams and 125 calories (18).
Fish is healthy for various reasons.
It’s rich in essential nutrients. Some types are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: Highly variable. Salmon is 22% protein, containing 19 grams per 3-ounce (85- gram) serving and only 175 calories (19).
Shrimp is a type of seafood.
It’s low in calories but high in various nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12.
fish, shrimp contains omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: 97% of calories. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving contains 20 grams and only 84 calories (20).
Brussels sprouts are another high protein vegetable related to broccoli.
They’re high in fiber, vitamin C, and other nutrients.
Protein content: 28% of calories. One-half cup (78 grams) contains 2 grams of protein and 28 calories (21).
Peanuts are high in protein, fiber, and magnesium.
Studies show that they can help you lose weight.
Peanut butter is also high in protein, but it can wise be high in calories. Therefore, you should eat it in moderation.
Peanuts are not suitable for people with a nut allergy.
Protein content: 18% of calories. One ounce (28 grams) contains 7 grams and 161 calories (22).
Protein is essential for maintaining and repairing body tissue. It may also help you lose weight.
A wide variety of foods provides protein. Plant-based foods, such as lentils, are a good option for vegans and vegetarians.
Is too much protein harmful?
Eat More Protein: 9 Easy Ways to Ensure You Get Enough | Spartan Race
You know protein is essential for building muscle, but if you wait for your steak or fish dinner to hit quota, you’re leaving money on the table.
Your body can only process about 25-35 grams of protein at a time for muscle growth and repair, depending on your activity level and weight, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
“Anything more won’t be used for that purpose.” But in order to eat more protein and really reap the benefits, you need to be smart about it.
So how many grams of protein should you aim for daily? Active folks need 1.2 to 2 grams per kg of body weight to prevent muscle breakdown and use for energy, explains Harris-Pincus. (Take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to get your weight in kg).
But again, don’t down them in one shot. Not only will spacing out your intake help your body put it to use, but protein takes longer to digest than other macronutrients, so eating it at each meal and snack will promote the feeling of fullness, adds Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Here’s how to eat more protein and get your fill sunup to sundown.
1. Get a Handle on Your Grams
Count each ounce of cooked protein, poultry, beef or fish, as 7 grams, says Harris-Pincus. A 3-ounce chicken breast (the size of a deck of cards) packs about 21 grams. An egg contains 6 grams, a cup of dairy milk has 8. A 5.
3 ounce container of Greek yogurt has between 12-15 grams, a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese between 10-16 grams. Each 1/2 cup serving of cooked grain has about 3 grams. An ounce of nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter has about 6-7 grams, says Harris-Pincus.
Use these examples when throwing meals together and you can ditch the calculator.
2. Power Up Right the Gate
“This is a key opportunity to prevent muscle loss as we age,” says Harris-Pincus. But you don’t need to wait till your later years to see the effects. Aim for 20 grams in the a.m. and you’ll have the mental and physical stamina to plow through the day ahead.
Make eggs, have a yogurt with nuts and seeds, or grab a protein shake. Have more time? Toss black beans, cheese, and scrambled eggs into a whole grain tortilla for a protein and fiber-filled breakfast. Now go conquer the day.
Related: How to Get Stronger All Day Long
3. Match Up Your Snacks
To make grazing more filling, remember this rule: to eat more protein you need to add more protein. Aim for 10-15 grams per snack, depending on your weight and activity level. Add a side of cheese to your fruit, a spoonful of chickpeas (7 grams per ounce) to your chips or a Greek yogurt (12-15 grams) to your berries and you’ll have given each an upgrade.
4. Add Buzz to Your Smoothies
Powders and nut butters aren’t the only way to make your liquid fuel reach it’s protein potential. “One of my favorite protein-boosting tricks is blending cottage cheese into smoothies. The texture disappears, leaving a creamy flavor that’s much less tart than Greek yogurt so you need less added sweetener,” says Harris-Pincus.
5. Sprinkle Protein Powder on Cereal
Love your morning bowl, but your pick doesn’t contain much protein? Mix 2-3 tablespoons of protein powder into your milk of choice and then pour it over your whole grain cereal and fruit, says Harris-Pincus. A dramatically better bowlful.
6. Pick a Better Milk
Better to opt for dairy milk or soy milk, if you want to eat more protein as a priority, rather than almond and other nut milks. “If you’re avoiding dairy, be sure your alternative includes protein. Soy milk is the most adequate alternative, says Jones—7 grams per serving.
7. Make Eating Eggs Easier
Buy them hard-boiled and you’ll be way inclined to reach for these protein-packed orbs (6 grams a piece) throughout the day. Pair with toast and fruit in the morning, or with crackers and hummus for a snack, says Jones. No shame in not waiting for water to boil.
8. Choose A Couple New Nuts
You already stash them in your car, purse, or desk at work. But what kind? “While pecans and macadamia nuts are delicious, nutritious, and fine to eat with balanced snacks, peanuts and pistachios contain more protein per serving—6-8 grams—to satisfy you between meals,” says Jones.
Related: 6 Easy and Healthy Ways to Eat Peanut Butter (Better)
9. Look For These in the Produce Section
Want to cut back on animal protein? “Buy pre-cooked lentils. When you don’t feel cooking, you can still throw together a balanced meal—and do it in minutes,” says Jones. A half-cup of lentils delivers 12 grams of protein. Sprinkle them on a salad and add whole-grain bread (up to 6 grams). Pow! You’ve just added muscle to Meatless Mondays.
Will Eating More Protein Help Your Body Gain Muscle Faster?
From the WebMD Archives
Seems everyone at the gym is doing it: filling up on protein to bulk up those biceps. But it's a misconception. Eating extra protein actually doesn't do much toward boosting your muscle mass and strength.
In fact, medical research shows that consuming too much protein — more than 30% of your total daily caloric intake — could actually harm your body, says protein expert Gail Butterfield, PhD, RD, director of Nutrition Studies at the Palo Alto Veterans' Administration Medical Center and nutrition lecturer at Stanford University.
She says that a diet containing excess protein can have the following adverse effects:
- Adding more protein but not more calories or exercise to your diet won't help you build more muscle mass, but it may put your other bodily systems under stress.
- Eating more protein and increasing total caloric intake while maintaining the same exercise level will build an equal amount of additional fat and muscle mass, according to a study published in 1992 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
So think twice when you consider sacrificing the carbohydrates for a protein-dominant diet, Butterfield says. Drastically cutting carbohydrates from your diet may force your body to fight back.
She says that's because a diet in which protein makes up more than 30% of your caloric intake causes a buildup of toxic ketones.
So-called ketogenic diets can thrust your kidneys into overdrive in order to flush these ketones from your body.
As your kidneys rid your body of these toxic ketones, you can lose a significant amount of water, which puts you at risk of dehydration, particularly if you exercise heavily.
That water loss often shows up on the scale as weight loss. But along with losing water, you lose muscle mass and bone calcium. The dehydration also strains your kidneys and puts stress on your heart.
And dehydration from a ketogenic diet can make you feel weak and dizzy, give you bad breath, or lead to other problems.
The amount of protein you require depends on your weight and your daily caloric intake. Most Americans consume more than enough protein in their daily diets.
A few specific groups of people are at risk for being protein-deficient, including elderly women and people with illnesses or eating disorders.
A protein deficiency is defined as eating 50% to 75% of the recommended amount of daily protein, Butterfield explains.
Ideally, you should consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, according to recommended daily allowances (RDA) set by the Food and Nutrition Board. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you need about 61 grams of protein each day.
Protein should also make up approximately 15% of your total daily caloric intake, also according to the RDA. In a diet of 1,800 calories a day, for example, about 270 of those calories should come from protein.
Although limiting protein intake is important, you should also realize that protein is essential to our bodies' normal functions. It assists in synthesizing enzymes and hormones, maintaining fluid balance, and regulating such vital functions as building antibodies against infection, blood clotting, and scar formation.
Protein is also a building block for our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, and blood. Protein-rich foods include meat, cheese, milk, fish, and eggs. For vegetarians, protein can be found in soy products such as tofu as well as in combinations of foods, such as rice or corn with beans.
Whether you are an avid strength trainer, a marathon runner, or just an average exerciser, a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and complex carbohydrates is what nutritionists recommend.
© 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
How to eat more protein: Tips and tricks
Proteins are responsible for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues. They also play an essential role in the production of hormones, enzymes, and red blood cells.
Each protein is made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. Because the body cannot store amino acids, it must get a regular supply from the diet.
In the United States, people get most of their protein from animal sources, such as meat, fish, and eggs.
People following a vegan diet must, therefore, ensure that they eat enough plant-based protein to meet their dietary requirements.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provide an online calculator that can estimate a person’s recommended daily intake of protein and other nutrients.
This article describes seven ways to add protein to the diet and gives tips on getting the most benefit from this nutrient.
Different foods contain different combinations and amounts of essential amino acids (EAAs).
Compared with animal proteins, plant proteins tend to lack the full range of EAAs.
People following a strict vegan diet should, therefore, consume a variety of plant proteins in order to meet their EAA requirements.
Some of the best sources of plant protein include:
Legumes, also known as pulses, are the seeds or fruits of plants belonging to the Fabaceae family. Some common examples of legumes are peas and beans.
Legumes are a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Examples of common legumes and their protein contents in grams (g) are listed below.
Chickpeas and hummus
Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are among the most versatile legumes. People can buy them dried, precooked and canned, or ground into a flour.
Chickpea flour, also known as gram flour, is especially rich in protein — 1 cup contains 20.6 g. For comparison, 1 cup of cooked chickpeas contains 14.5 g.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient of hummus, and 1 tablespoon of hummus contains around 1.17 g of protein. Try combining this dip with carrot, celery, or cucumber slices for a quick and healthful snack.
Nuts and nut butters
Nuts are rich in protein and an excellent source of other important nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), magnesium, and vitamin E.
Some common examples include:
Nut butters are another option for people wishing to increase their intake of plant proteins.
For a quick and nutritious snack, try spreading one of these nut butters onto slices of fresh apple:
Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Central and South America. A single ounce of chia seeds provides 4.69 g of protein.
Try sprinkling chia seeds on breakfast cereals or adding them to a smoothie.
Oats contain the most protein of all the grains, with 1 cup providing 10.7 g of protein.
Beyond oatmeal, a person can use oats to make granolas and chewy bars. For extra protein, try adding other high-protein foods, such as nuts and seeds, and serving with yogurt or milk.
Quinoa is a seed harvested from the goosefoot plant. Quinoa is not technically a cereal and is suitable for people following a gluten-free diet.
A single cup of cooked quinoa provides 8.14 g of protein. It is also a good source of other nutrients, such as potassium, iron, and vitamin B.
Some people enjoy quinoa porridge in the mornings or adding the cooked seeds to salads and soups.
Share on PinterestMost dairy products are a good source of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
As well as being excellent sources of protein, dairy products contain high levels of other important nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
Also, according to a 2015 review, consumption of milk and yogurt could prevent overeating and assist weight loss. These products increase the concentrations of the hormones glucagon- peptide-1 and peptide YY, which signal to the brain that the stomach is full.
However, it is worth noting that some of the researchers involved in the review received funding from dairy companies.
Some popular dairy products and their protein contents include:
|Dairy product||Protein content per cup|
|whole milk||7.69 g|
|skimmed milk||8.26 g|
|plain yogurt (whole milk)||8.5 g|
|low-fat plain yogurt||12.9 g|
|plain yogurt (skimmed milk)||14 g|
Cheese is another protein-rich dairy product:
Around 46% of the total protein consumed in the U.S. comes from animal sources, such as meat, fish, and eggs.
Although meat is an excellent source of protein, it often contains high levels of saturated fats. These fats can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, increasing a person’s risk of heart disease.
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, opt for poultry over red meat. A portion of skinless roasted chicken weighing 100 g contains 6.63 g of fat and 25.01 g of protein.
The same amount of skinless roasted turkey contains only 3.84 g of fat and 29.06 g of protein.
Fish is an excellent source of protein. It also contains high levels of EFAs, which have anti-inflammatory properties and help increase levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood.
Tuna fish is particularly rich in protein. A standard half-fillet serving of skipjack tuna provides 43.6 g.
fish, eggs are a good source of protein and EFAs. One medium egg provides 5.53 g of protein.
Protein powders have become a popular nutritional supplement for athletes and others who are looking to build muscle.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, most people, including athletes, can get all the protein that they need from food alone.
However, supplements are a quick and convenient option that can be useful for people who struggle to get enough protein from their diet.
When choosing a powder, it is important to consider its biological value (BV) score. The BV score indicates how effectively the body is able to make use of the protein in a food. A score of 100 indicates that the body can make use of all of the available protein.
Below, learn more about the contents and BV scores of various protein powders:
- Whey: This is one of two proteins derived from milk. Whey contains all the EAAs and has a BV of 104, making it an excellent source of usable protein.
- Casein: This is a slow-digesting protein derived from milk. whey, it contains all the EAAs, but it has a lower BV of 77.
- Soy: This represents a good vegan alternative to whey and casein proteins. It has a BV of 74, which is lower than the scores of both dairy proteins, but it contains all of the EAAs.
Share on PinterestFor those with a busy lifestyle, protein shakes can be a convenient way to add protein into the diet.
Protein shakes are a fast and convenient way to get more protein into the diet. To make a protein shake, blend fruits and 100% juice, milk, or water, then add a scoop of protein powder.
As an alternative to protein powder, a person could use high-protein foods such as peanut butter, chia seeds, or Greek yogurt in their shakes.
Having a protein shake for breakfast may relieve hunger and help prevent midmorning snacking.
A protein shake can also be a handy snack for the gym, and some experts suggest that consuming 20–25 g of protein immediately after exercise helps maximize muscle growth and repair.
Other research indicates that ingesting 20–40 g of protein every 3–4 hours throughout the day may be the best way to improve muscle growth and repair.
Overall, the most important thing is to meet daily protein requirements.
Findings of a small 2015 study suggest that eating protein before carbohydrates could help with maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
In this study, participants ate two identical meals on two separate days but changed the order in which they ate the proteins and carbs.
The researchers found that the participants’ glucose and post-meal insulin levels were lower when they had eaten the proteins first.
Research shows that protein has a satiating effect on appetite, helping people to feel fuller for longer. This is, in part, because protein decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
A 2015 review found that consuming 25–30 g of protein at every meal can help regulate the appetite and facilitate weight management.
This, in turn, may help protect against cardiometabolic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Protein is an essential nutrient that performs a number of important roles in the body.
People should consume protein from a variety of sources to ensure that they get the right balance of EAAs.
Other factors, such as when a person eats protein, may help determine its effects on the body.
- Nutrition / Diet
- Obesity / Weight Loss / Fitness
Choosing Healthy Protein – HelpGuide.org
Protein provides energy and supports your mood and cognitive function. It’s a vital nutrient required for building, maintaining, and repairing tissues, cells, and organs throughout the body. While it’s in many of the foods that we eat every day, for something so common it’s often a misunderstood part of our diets.
When you eat protein, it is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy. The amino acid tryptophan influences mood by producing serotonin, which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve overall cognitive function.
Most animal sources of protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, deliver all the amino acids your body needs, while plant-based protein sources such as grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts often lack one or more of the essential amino acids. However, that doesn’t mean you have to eat animal products to get the right amino acids. By eating a variety of plant-based sources of protein each day you can ensure your body gets all the essential amino acids it needs.
The health benefits of protein
Protein gives you the energy to get up and go—and keep going. While too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, diabetes, and some other conditions, eating the right amount of high-quality protein:
- Keeps your immune system functioning properly, maintains heart health and your respiratory system, and speeds recovery after exercise
- Is vital to the growth and development of children and for maintaining health in your senior years
- Can help reduce your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- Can help you think clearly and may improve recall
- Can improve your mood and boost your resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression
- May help you maintain a healthy weight by curbing appetite, making you feel full longer, and fueling you with extra energy for exercising.
As well as being imperative to feeling healthy and energetic, protein is also important to the way you look. Eating high-quality protein can help you maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair, build muscle, and maintain lean body mass while dieting.
While most people eating a Western diet get sufficient quantity of protein each day, many of us are not getting the quality of protein we need.
High-quality vs. low-quality protein
Distinguishing between industrially raised meat and organic, grass-fed meat is only part of separating low- and high-quality sources of protein.
- While some processed or lunch meats, for example, can be a good source of protein, many are loaded with salt, which can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems.
- Processed meats have also been linked with an increased risk of cancer, ly due to the substances used in the processing of the meat.
The key to ensuring you eat sufficient high-quality protein is to include different types in your diet, rather than relying on just red or processed meat.
Good sources of high-quality protein
Fish. Most seafood is high in protein and low in saturated fat. Fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, sablefish (black cod), and herring are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Experts recommend eating seafood at least twice a week.
Poultry. Removing the skin from chicken and turkey can substantially reduce the saturated fat. In the U.S., non-organic poultry may also contain antibiotics and been raised on GMO feed grown with pesticides, so opt for organic and free-range if possible.
Dairy products. Products such as skim milk, cheese, and yoghurt offer lots of healthy protein. Beware of added sugar in low-fat yoghurts and flavored milk, though, and skip processed cheese that often contains non-dairy ingredients.
Beans. Beans and peas are packed full of both protein and fiber. Add them to salads, soups and stews to boost your protein intake.
Nuts and seeds. As well as being rich sources of protein, nuts and seeds are also high in fiber and “good” fats. Add to salads or keep handy for snacks.
Tofu and soy products. Non-GMO tofu and soy are excellent red meat alternatives, high in protein and low in fat. Try a “meatless Monday,” plant-based protein sources are often less expensive than meat so it can be as good for your wallet as it is for your health.
|Good sources of protein|
|Nutrition values are approximate only; significant variations occur according to brand, cut of meat, cooking method, etc.|
|Food||Grams of protein|
|Canned tuna – 3 ounces||20|
|Salmon – 3 ounces|
|Turkey breast – 3 ounces|
|Chicken breast – 3 ounces|
|Skirt steak – 3 ounces|
|Ground beef (70% lean) – 3 ounces|
|Kidney beans – 1/3 cup|
|Black beans – 1/3 cup|
|Non-fat milk – 1/2 cup|
|Soy milk – 1/2 cup|
|Eggs – 1 large|
|Mozzarella cheese – 3 ounces|
|Cheddar – 3 ounces|
|Low-fat cottage cheese – 1/2 cup|
|Peanut butter – 2 tbsp.|
|Almonds – 1/4 cup (24 nuts)|
|Walnuts – 1/4 cup (14 halves)|
|Veggie burger – 1 patty|
|Tofu – 1/2 cup|
|Yogurt, plain – 1 cup|
|Whey protein powder – 1/3 cup|
|Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference|
Tips to increase your protein intake
To include more high-quality protein in your diet, try replacing processed carbs with high-quality protein. It can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, and you’ll also feel full longer, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates you consume—from foods such as pastries, cakes, pizza, cookies and chips—and replace them with fish, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, chicken, dairy, and soy and tofu products.
- Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace a baked dessert with Greek yogurt, or swap out slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and a side of beans.
To avoid problems when increasing protein intake
- Choose unsalted nuts and seeds, to reduce your daily sodium intake.
- When shopping for canned beans, choose the low sodium versions.
- Adding more protein to your diet can increase urine output, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Increasing protein can also cause calcium loss so make sure to get plenty of calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg per day).
Protein powders, shakes, and bars
In most cases, consuming the right balance of whole foods each day will provide you with all the nutrients you need, negating the need for protein supplements. However, you may benefit from supplementing your diet if you’re:
- A teenager who is growing and exercising a lot
- An adult switching to a vegan diet—eliminating meat, chicken, fish, and even dairy and eggs from your diet
- An older adult with a small appetite who finds it difficult to eat your protein requirements in whole foods
- Starting or increasing a regular workout program, trying to add muscle, recovering from a sports injury, or find you feel weak while exercising or lifting weights
Using protein supplements
Protein supplements come in various forms including powders you mix with milk or water, pre-mixed, ready-to-drink shakes, or in bars. The most common types of protein used are whey, casein, and soy. Whey and casein are milk-based proteins, while soy is the better choice for vegans or anyone with a dairy allergy.
Safety concerns. Protein supplements may not be safe for older people with renal disease or people who have recently undergone surgery on the digestive system. Some ingredients may even interact with prescription medication, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before using.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.
Look out for extra ingredients. Many protein bars are packed with carbs and added sugar.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A. Last updated: June 2019.