Protein is an essential part of our diets. It is found throughout the body. It is the key to holding down your food cravings, building lean muscle, and helping you manage your weight.
But proteins serve a variety of purposes, not the least of which is providing crucial life sustaining support for bodily functions. They are responsible for a cell’s unique characteristics, including the DNA and RNA in our genetic code. They are involved in virtually all cell functions, with each protein having a specific role. Some provide structural support or are involved in movement, while others defend against contagions.
At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. But it’s not just how much you eat that’s important: It’s where you get your protein that also matters.
Every source of protein – from nuts to fish – contains a different array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Of the 20 various amino acids, nine are “essential,” meaning you can only get them from the food you eat.
Animal sources tend to deliver all the amino acids we need. Other protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack one or more of the essential amino acids. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.
But not all protein is created equal. Some high-protein foods are healthier than others because of what comes along with it: healthy fats or harmful ones, beneficial fiber or hidden salt. Every food packages protein alongside its own brand of vitamins and minerals. Some sources are rich in B vitamins; others in iron, and some aren’t rich in anything at all. Remember: your body can’t do much with protein if you’re deficient in essential nutrients. It’s this protein package that’s likely to make a difference for health.
For example, a 6-ounce steak is a great source of protein—about 40 grams worth. But it also delivers about 12 grams of saturated fat. If you eat a 2,000 calorie per day diet, that’s more than 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat.
A 6-ounce ham steak has only about 2.5 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with sodium—2,000 milligrams worth, or about 500 milligrams more than the daily sodium maximum.
6-ounces of salmon has about 34 grams of protein and is naturally low in sodium, and contains only 1.7 grams of saturated fat. Salmon and other fish are also excellent sources of omega-3 fats, a type of fat that’s especially good for the heart.
Alternatively, a cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, and it has virtually no saturated fat or sodium.
The recommended daily allowance of is 46 grams per day for women over 19 years of age, and 56 grams per day for men over 19 years of age. However, the needs vary for individuals according to activity level, age, muscle mass, current state of health and physique goals, such as body building or weight loss. Physically active people, nursing mothers, seniors and those recovering from injuries require a higher protein intake. Endurance athletes or those looking to gain a significant amount of muscle mass, such as body builders, often increase their protein intake by 50% over the RDA for sedentary people. Some of us are concerned that we don’t get enough protein, while others worry about getting too much.
The popularity of protein shakes is not limited to athletes or those looking to increase muscle mass. It shows that people are becoming aware that protein plays a vital role in their health management. They are now considering various sources of high-quality protein on a daily basis.
Here are some of the healthiest protein-packed foods you can eat:
Whole eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, eye-protecting antioxidants and brain nutrients. 1 large egg contains 6 grams of protein, with 78 calories.
Almonds are a popular type of tree nut. They are loaded with important nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium. 6 grams per 1 ounce (28 g) serving, with 161 calories.
Chicken is one of the most popular protein-rich foods. It can be prepared in many different, delicious ways. If you eat it without the skin, the majority of the calories come from the protein. 1 roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams of protein, with only 284 calories.
Fish is incredibly healthy. It is loaded with various nutrients, and tends to be very high in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty-acids. Salmon is 46% protein, with 19 grams protein per 3 ounce serving, with 175 calories.
Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that tends to be very low in fat and calories. It is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and various other nutrients. A cup (226 g) of cottage cheese with 2% fat contains 27 grams of protein, with 194 calories.
Karma Juice Blueberry Bliss Smoothie, a delicious organic smoothie that combines blueberries, oats, and pea protein. An 8 ounce serving contains 14 grams of protein, with 150 calories.
Milk is highly nutritious, but the problem is that a huge percentage of the world’s adults are intolerant to it. However, if you tolerate milk and enjoy drinking it, then milk can be an excellent source of high-quality protein. Milk contains a little bit of almost every single nutrient needed by the human body. It is particularly high in calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin (vitamin B2). 1 cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein, with 149 calories.
Quinoa is a seed/grain that is currently among the world’s most popular superfoods. It is high in many vitamins, minerals and fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants. Quinoa has numerous health benefits. One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams, with 222 calories.
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 are an excellent food for vegetarians. 1 cup (198 g) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams, with 230 calories.
Broccoli is an incredibly healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium. Broccoli is also loaded with various bioactive nutrients believed to help protect against cancer. Calorie for calorie, it is high in protein compared to most vegetables. 1 cup of chopped broccoli (96 grams) contains 3 grams of protein, with only 31 calories.
The importance of eating enough high quality protein can not be overstated. It is the simplest, easiest and most delicious way to lose weight, have a better looking body, and stay healthy.