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A little bit of fun science about proteins before we go into discussing foods high in protein!

Protein is a molecule made up of amino acids. It’s a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells. Proteins are the building blocks of your life. Every cell in your body contains protein. You need proteins because your body cannot produce essential amino acids on its own.

Proteins are called workhorses of your cell, because they compose structural and motor elements in your cell and they serve as the catalysts for almost every biochemical reaction that occurs in your body.

You need protein in your diet to help your body repair your cells and create new ones. Protein is also essential for growth and development in children and pregnant women.

Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build muscle tissue and maintain bone density. It also provides energy for daily activity.

The best source of protein is animal products, which include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Plant-based protein sources include beans, nuts, seeds, soybeans, tofu, and other legumes.

High-protein diets favourably include large amounts of protein and only a small amount of carbohydrate. And, protein foods are broken down into amino acids during digestion. Your body needs a number of amino acids in large amounts to maintain good health.

How Much Protein You Need Daily

Protein is an essential macronutrient, and since your body cannot produce the macronutrients on its own, it’s important to get them through your diet.

The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 9.07185 kilogram of body weight.

  • For a 63.5 kg person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 90.7 kg person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

The acceptable protein intake can range between 10% and 35% of calories each day.

Protein deficiency and malnutrition can contribute to the loss of your muscle mass and your decreased immunity, weakening of your heart and your respiratory system.

Types of Protein Good For Your Health

When we eat foods high in protein, we also end-up eating everything that comes with them: the different fats, fiber, sodium, etc. It’s this protein package that’s likely to make a difference to your health.

Research data suggests that it’s the source of protein (the protein package, as it is called) rather than the amount of protein that can make a difference for your health.

Healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish and poultry can make a positive difference to your health, while eating red meat and processed meat can increase the risk of several diseases and even lead to premature death.

And there’re complete and incomplete proteins.

Complete Proteins

If the protein you eat has all the 9 types of amino acids, it is called a “complete protein.” Some sources of complete proteins are:

  • Fish
  • ‌Poultry (chicken, duck, or turkey)
  • ‌Eggs
  • ‌Dairy products (milk, yogurt, etc.)
  • ‌Beef and pork
  • ‌Soy products, like tofu and edamame

Incomplete Proteins

If the protein you eat doesn’t have all the nine types of amino acids, it’s called an “incomplete protein.” Some sources of incomplete proteins are:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • ‌Whole grains (brown rice or whole-wheat bread)
  • ‌Vegetables
  • Lentils, peas and beans. 

Now, let’s see foods that are high in protein.

1. Milk

Milk is a good source of high quality protein. It’s also high in vitamins ((vitamin B2) and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin B2 helps break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply.

If you’re lactose-intolerant, you can buy lactose-free daily products, such as lactose-free milk or cheese (cheddar cheese) from your favourite online store. If you want to know more about food intolerance and how to deal with it, please refer to our exclusive blog post on the subject.

“Protein content in Milk: 246 mL of dairy milk provides 8.32 grams of protein”

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is high in protein, with about 12 grams per 8 ounces (227 grams, to be precise). Protein supports your metabolism by increasing your energy expenditure or the number of calories that you burn in a the day. Yogurt, especially greek yogurt, can potentially influence your appetite management and delay feelings of hunger, which can contribute to your weight loss.

Yogurt can help your appetite regulation, as it increases the production of leptin hormones that tell your brain that you’re full. It may also help you reduce the number of calories you consume, which might aid your weight loss.

“Protein content in Yogurt: 245 grams of plain yogurt churned from whole milk contains about 8.5 grams of protein.”

3. Eggs

Eggs are a complete protein and are rich with vitamins and minerals. Eggs are low carbs and calorie, and are a cheap and healthy source of protein. One egg provides 6 to 8 grams of protein with just 70 calories.

Dietary cholesterol level in eggs has a very minimal impact on serum cholesterol levels or blood cholesterol levels, so they’re safe for your daily consumption. However, it’s recommended that you limit eating one egg per day.

Always eat egg with its yolk, a rich source of nutrition, which include vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and choline. Studies have clearly shown that whole eggs are very healthy for most people and may actually help prevent chronic diseases.

“Protein content in Eggs: One egg (50 grams) provides 6.3 grams of protein.”

4. Chicken

Chicken is a great choice for your increased protein intake. It’s a lean protein with 25 g in just 4 ounces. Chicken also provides a variety of B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and selenium.

One chicken breast contains about 54 grams of protein. Because it’s protein-rich and low in calorie means you can eat more chicken without duly concerned about consuming too many calories.

“Protein content in Chicken: Single half of a chicken breast (86 grams) contains 26.7 grams of protein”.

5. Fish and Seafood

Fish is a fantastic source of protein with a number of important vitamins and minerals, such as iodine, selenium and vitamin B12. Eating fish can lower the risk of health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Fish such as Tuna is a naturally lean protein source, so you’ll get a large amount of the protein you need from it. Prawns is also an excellent source of high protein. Prawns are also a great source of omega 3 and Vitamin B12 great for your heart and nervous system respectively.

Fish like sardine, cod, halibut, lobster, shrimp and crab are great source of high protein too.

“Protein content in Fish and Seafood (amount of protein in 3 ounce per serving): Tuna 26g, Crab 20g, Cod 20g, Salmon 24g, Shrimp 21g, Halibut 23g.”

 

6. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is high in protein and low in calories and fat. Cottage cheese is called a fresh cheese, as it does not undergo a long ripening process to develop its flavour. One cup (226 grams) of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein, while cheddar cheese can provide 3.96 grams of protein per 17-gram slice.

Cottage cheese is high in selenium, essential component of enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins, which help protect you against cell damage and infections. These proteins are also involved in reproduction and the metabolism of your thyroid hormones.

“Protein content in Cottage Cheese: 226 grams of cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein.”

7. Lentils

Lentils are high-protein pulses that are a rich source of plant-based protein, and they’re a great choice for you if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains 17.9 grams of protein.

Lentils are full nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, folate, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. And, lentils can also help you reduce your blood sugar levels. Lentil sprouts may also help your heart health by lowering low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increasing high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol).

“Protein content in Lentils: 100 grams of cooked lentils contains 9.02 grams of protein.”

 

8. Black Beans

Black beans are a great source of protein, fiber and folate, and are nutritionally powerful. A diet rich in black beans can reduce your risk of many serious medical conditions and help your body to process calories much more effectively. One cup (172 grams) of cooked black beans contains 15.2 grams of protein, which 30% of your % Daily Value.

Black beans are known to positively enhance your gut bacteria. In one animal study, researchers have found out that eating black beans increased a cluster of bacteria in the gut that may result in improved insulin sensitivity. According to a study, eating a single serving of dried black beans per day can minimise the risk of heart attack by up to 38%.

Black beans can also be high in carbohydrates. So if you’re following a low-carb diet, you can consult your nutritionist before you start eating them. And, do not eat too many black beans, because they contain compounds that may be difficult for your stomach to digest and can cause gas and intestinal discomfort.

“Protein content in Black Beans: One cup or 172 grams of cooked black beans contains 15.2 grams of protein.”

9. Almonds

Almonds are a plant-based protein. They are a tree nut richly filled with essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. One ounce (28.35 grams) of almonds provides 6 grams of protein for you.

Eating almonds can help you to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Fats in almonds are mostly monounsaturated fats. A diet with moderate to high quantities of monounsaturated fats can help you in weight loss programs, provided you don’t eat more calories than you can burn.

“Protein content in Almonds: One ounce (28.35 grams) of almonds contains 6 grams of protein.”

10. Soybeans

Soybeans are one of the best sources of plant-based protein. One cup (172 grams) of boiled soybeans contains around 31. 3 grams of protein. Soybeans are a rich source of various vitamins, minerals, and useful plant compounds, like isoflavones. They’re also good source of both carbs and fat.

If eaten regularly, soybeans might alleviate the symptoms of menopause and reduce your risk of prostate and breast cancer. Having said that, if you are a predisposed individual, soybeans consumption can cause digestive problems and suppress your thyroid function. In this context, it’s better to have your genetic wellness improved.

“One cup (172 grams) of cooked soybeans contains 31.3 grams of protein.”

11. Broccoli

You might not think of broccoli as a protein powerhouse, but this unassuming green veggie actually packs a surprising protein punch! While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for high-protein foods, a single cup of raw, chopped broccoli contains a respectable 2.57 grams of protein.
Sure, that might not seem like a lot compared to a juicy steak or a scoop of protein powder, but every little bit counts – especially when you combine broccoli with other protein-rich foods. And let’s not forget that broccoli is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin E, and a whole host of other essential nutrients that do a body good.

12. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds might be small, but they’re absolute protein powerhouses. These little green gems are packed with not just protein, but also essential amino acids that are crucial for building and maintaining lean muscle mass.

But that’s not all – pumpkin seeds also come loaded with healthy fats and fatty acids that are essential for keeping your heart in tip-top shape. Talk about a nutritional one-two punch!

The best part? Pumpkin seeds are incredibly versatile. You can snack on them plain, toss them into salads for a delightfully crunchy texture, or even use them to add a little something special to your favorite dishes.

Benefits of a Higher Protein Diet

Eating more protein is really good for you. It can help you lose weight and build muscle. Here’s how:

  1. Protein keeps you feeling full longer. So you won’t get as hungry or have as many cravings. It also gives your metabolism a little boost to burn more calories.
  2. Protein builds and repairs your muscles after working out. Even if you’re trying to slim down, it preserves your lean muscle.
  3. A protein-rich meal satisfies you way more than a carb-heavy one. Protein crushes hunger pangs, making it easier to stick to healthy foods.
  4. Studies show a high-protein diet may lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Awesome!
  5. protein is great for overall health. It strengthens your immune system, balances hormones, and builds strong bones. It’s like a superhero nutrient!

Of course, don’t overdo just protein. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and good fats too. But if you want to level up your fitness and health, packing in more protein is a smart move.

Understanding Daily Protein Requirements

Daily protein needs vary based on several factors:

  1. Body weight: Larger people generally require more protein.
  2. Activity level: Athletes and highly active individuals need more protein for muscle repair and recovery. Endurance athletes may need 1.2-2.0 g/kg body weight, while strength athletes may need 1.6-2.2 g/kg.
  3. Age and health status: Protein requirements increase during pregnancy, breastfeeding, illness, or injury to support growth, healing, and immune function.

The general recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg body weight per day for healthy adults. However, excessive protein intake provides no additional benefits and may strain the kidneys. It’s best to consult a healthcare professional to determine your specific protein needs based on your individual circumstances.

To help you understand how protein needs can differ based on body weight and activity level, here’s a text table illustrating the recommended protein intake for different individuals:

Body Weight (kg) Sedentary (g/kg) Endurance Athletes (g/kg) Strength Athletes (g/kg)
50 40-45 60-100 80-110
60 48-54 72-120 96-132
70 56-63 84-140 112-154
80 64-72 96-160 128-176

It’s important to remember that these values are rough estimates and should be used as a starting point. Individual protein needs may vary, and it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

Incorporating High-Protein Foods into Meals

Kickstart your morning right with a protein-packed breakfast. Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and chia seeds, a veggie-filled omelet, or a protein smoothie are all great options.

For lunch and dinner, add in lean protein sources. Toss some grilled chicken or black beans into your salad. Stir-fry tofu or lean beef with veggies over brown rice or quinoa. Or make lettuce wraps stuffed with turkey and avocado.

Don’t forget snacks! Grab a spoonful of peanut butter or cottage cheese to fill you up between meals.

With a few simple swaps, it’s easy to get more protein into your daily diet. Your body will thank you for the energy boost.

Conclusion

Incorporating high-protein foods into your diet can have numerous benefits, from supporting muscle growth and recovery to promoting satiety and weight management. Understanding your daily protein requirements and including a variety of protein sources in your meals is key to maintaining a balanced diet. Whether you prefer plant-based or animal-based proteins, there are plenty of delicious options to choose from. By making informed choices and incorporating high-protein foods creatively into your meals, you can optimize your nutrition and overall well-being. Remember, balance and variety are essential for a healthy diet rich in protein.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Makes a Food High in Protein?

Foods with a significant amount of protein per serving, especially those with all 9 essential amino acids (complete proteins), are considered high in protein.

2. Can I Get Enough Protein from Plant Sources?

Absolutely. Foods like soy, legumes, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of plant-based protein.

3. How Much Protein Do I Need?

The general recommendation is 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. But needs can vary based on activity level, age, and health.

4. Risks of Too Much Protein?

Excessive protein intake can strain the kidneys and increase risk of kidney damage, especially with pre-existing conditions.

5. Boosting Protein Without Too Many Calories?

Focus on lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu, and low-fat dairy. Choose protein-rich snacks like yogurt or nuts, and watch portions.

6. Quick High-Protein Snacks?

Peanut butter on apple slices or crackers, Greek yogurt with berries, cottage cheese with cucumber, roasted seeds/nuts.

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