Its All About The Protein Package
When we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fiber, sodium, and more. Its this protein package thats likely to make a difference for health.
The table below shows a sample of food packages sorted by protein content, alongside a range of components that come with it.
To call out a few examples:
- A 4-ounce broiled sirloin steak is a great source of proteinabout 33 grams worth. But it also delivers about 5 grams of saturated fat.
- A 4-ounce ham steak with 22 grams of protein has only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, but its loaded with 1,500 milligrams worth of sodium.
- 4 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon has about 30 grams of protein, naturally low in sodium, and contains just over 1 gram of saturated fat. Salmon and other fatty fish are also excellent sources of omega-3 fats, a type of fat thats especially good for the heart.
- 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.
What about protein powders?
Protein Increases Your Metabolism
A slow metabolism means that your body isn’t very efficient at breaking down the food you eat. If you want to improve your body’s digestion rate, protein can help.
One 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a high protein diet resulted in a higher rate of fat oxidation, meaning that the diet helped people to burn more fat than other types of diets.
Second Generation Soy Products
Another class of soy-based food exists which in Australia we call second generation soy food. This includes tofu sausages and burgers, soy breads, soy pasta and soymilk yoghurts and cheeses. It also includes products that contain soy or soy-based ingredients such as lecithin which can be found in some chocolate and baked goods.
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Beans Peas And Lentils
Both the high fiber and protein contents in pulses help make them more filling. Whats more, the fiber may lower your blood cholesterol if you eat pulses regularly .
In a review of 26 studies in 1,037 people, eating an average of 2/3 cup of cooked pulses daily for at least three weeks resulted in 7 mg/dL lower bad LDL cholesterol, compared to control diets that equaled a 5% reduction in LDL over time .
Notably, pulses are low in a few essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein in your body. However, by eating other plant protein sources over the course of a day, such as whole grains or nuts, youll fill in those gaps .
Summary Beans, peas and lentils are good sources of lean protein. Theyre also high in fiber and may help lower your cholesterol if you eat them regularly.
Vegetarian Choices In The Protein Foods Group
Vegetarians get enough protein from this group as long as the variety and amounts of foods selected are adequate. Protein sources from the Protein Foods Group for vegetarians include eggs , beans, peas, and lentils, nuts and seeds , and soy products . For more information on beans, peas, and lentils, see Beans, Peas, and Lentils are Unique Foods.
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Daily Protein Foods Table
*These are general recommendations by age. Find the right amount for you by getting your MyPlate Plan.
|Daily Recommendation* in Ounce-Equivalents|
3 to 5½ oz-equiv
5 to 6½ oz-equiv
5 to 6½ oz-equiv
5½ to 7 oz-equiv
5 to 6½ oz-equiv
5 to 6 oz-equiv
6½ to 7 oz-equiv
6 to 7 oz-equiv
5½ to 6½ oz-equiv
Cheap And Healthy Sources Of Protein
Luckily, there are many delicious choices that suit every dietary need.
However, some people may find healthy protein sources to be too costly. While some sources of protein are expensive, there are also many affordable alternatives.
Here are 17 healthy protein sources that wont break the bank.
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Protein Helps You Maintain A Healthy Appetite
Several studies have shown that protein plays an important role in keeping hunger at a healthy level. One 2004 study by the American College of Nutrition showed that of the three macronutrients — protein, fat, and carbohydrates – protein is the most filling, leaving you feeling more satisfied.
Another 2006 study by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition found that protein reduced levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while simultaneously increasinging levels of peptide YY, which makes the body feel full.
In other words, eating more protein can help you feel more full after a meal, so that you don’t run the risk of overeating.
Have A Protein Shake For Breakfast
Many smoothies contain a lot of fruit, vegetables, or juice, but very little protein.
However, a shake or smoothie can be a great breakfast option, especially if you choose nutritious ingredients.
Whey protein powder has been studied the most and seems to have an edge over the others when it comes to helping you feel full (
Heres a basic whey shake recipe:
Whey Protein Shake
- 8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop of whey powder
- 1 cup of fresh berries
- stevia or another healthy sweetener, if desired
- 1/2 cup of crushed ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Having a protein shake for breakfast helps you start the day off right. Whey may be the best type to use.
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What About Protein Supplements
Some protein powders are plant-based. Depending upon the plants used to make the powders, they may be complete or incomplete proteins.
The position of the American Dietetic Association is that while food supplements can help people meet their daily nutrition goals, eating a wide variety of nutrients rich in protein is usually a better strategy for meeting daily goals.
Some protein supplements may also be high in sugar or sodium to improve the taste, so it is important to read the nutrition labels.
Replace Cereal With Eggs
Many breakfast foods are low in protein, including toast, bagels, and cereals.
Although oatmeal contains more protein than most cereals, it still only provides about 5 grams in a typical 1-cup serving .
On the other hand, 3 large eggs provide 19 grams of high quality protein, along with important nutrients like selenium and choline .
Whats more, several studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast reduces appetite and keeps you full for several hours, so you end up eating fewer calories later in the day .
According to one older study, eating whole eggs can also modify the size and shape of your LDL cholesterol particles in a way that may even decrease your heart disease risk .
Replacing cereal with eggs boosts protein consumption, makes you feel more full, and helps you eat fewer calories.
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Top 13 Lean Protein Foods You Should Eat
Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, but sometimes its accompanied by more fat and calories than you want.
Fortunately, there are a variety of lean animal and plant sources of protein that will help you meet your quota.
The protein Reference Daily Intake for an adult who eats 2,000 calories a day is 50 grams, although some people can benefit from eating much more than that. Your individual calorie and protein needs are based on your age, weight, height, sex and activity level .
Beyond proteins essential roles in building and maintaining muscle and tissues in your body and helping regulate many body processes, it also promotes satiety and may help in managing your weight (
Here are 13 lean protein foods you should consider.
Why You Need Protein
Protein is vital for three major functions. It helps you grow and repair muscles and other soft tissues. It is also a building block of enzymes and hormones, which help regulate processes in your body. Thirdly, protein is a fuel that your body burns for energy.
Your bodys protein requirement depends on your weight. The average adult needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day . So, a 140-pound person needs around 50 grams of protein every day. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that protein make up between 10% to 35% of your daily calories.
Protein is the building block of numerous body parts, including:
Fish is also high in protein. Three ounces of Atlantic salmon contain 22 grams of protein, while the same amount of cod contains 19 grams.
Any kind of bird raised primarily for meat and eggs is considered poultry.
Chicken is one of the most common poultry sources of protein. A 3-ounce serving of chicken breast contains an impressive 26 grams of protein. Turkey has slightly less protein, with 25 grams in 3 ounces.
One serving of beans provides the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of meat about 7 grams. Beans also keep you full for longer because, unlike animal sources of protein, they are rich in fiber.
5. Dairy Products
Greek yogurt is another protein-rich dairy product. It contains two to three times the amount of protein in regular yogurt.
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How Much Protein Do We Need
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, most adults require 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily . It notes that protein requirements increase in pregnancy by 6g per day and lactation by 8-11g, depending on the infants age.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise adults to consume 10-35 percent of their daily calories as protein, 46g for females and 56g for males.
Its important to note that the amount of protein that someone requires may vary depending on their activity levels and the type of exercise they do.
For example, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4-2 g/kg/d protein for building and maintaining muscle mass. However, they also note that there is evidence that higher protein intakes of over 3 g/kg/d may have positive effects on body composition in resistance-trained individuals.
However, a 2016 study advises that although long-term consumption of 2 g/kg/d protein is safe for healthy adults, long-term intakes of higher than this may result in digestive, renal, and vascular abnormalities. Harvard Health also agrees that until experts are conclusive about safe amounts, untrained individuals should aim for no more than 2 g/kg/d.
Plant Protein Such As Tempeh Is Considered Lean
A balanced diet is vital for good health and involves the three main macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. While fat and carbs have a history of getting a bad rap , protein has long had a so-called health halo.
But what makes protein so beloved and lean protein in particular so salubrious? The answer is far from simple.
Adequate protein intake is vital to overall health. Its the bodys building block, as bones, muscles, skin, and blood are all made up of protein, says Melissa Nieves, RD, who works at Kemtai, a virtual personal trainer company in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. In addition to those functions, protein aids the repair and regeneration of cells in the body, notes MedlinePlus.
For weight loss, protein can be helpful, too, because it helps the brain recognize the hormone leptin, which can keep you full longer and provide your body with energy, explains Rima Kleiner, a registered dietitian who is based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is the author of Dish on Fish, a seafood recipe blog. Research suggests that consuming protein increases leptin, which promotes a feeling of fullness.
The problem, though, is that some foods high in protein think common animal sources such as steak and pork are high in saturated fat, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out. In excess, saturated fat can increase your risk for heart disease, notes the American Heart Association . That’s where lean proteins come in, Nieves says.
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The Best Nontraditional Sources Of Protein
1. Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes meaning all types of dried beans, split peas and lentils are fair game for increasing your protein intake.
Beans and legumes are fiber-rich nutrient powerhouses and an excellent source of protein, says Hopsecger. One serving of beans provides about 7 grams of protein, the same as 1 ounce of meat.
Beans and legumes also keep you fuller, longer because they are so rich in fiber. Animal sources of protein, in contrast, have no fiber at all. Beans and legumes are also much higher in antioxidants.
Research suggests that:
- Four servings a week can decrease the risk of recurrence for colon polyps that can turn cancerous.
Eating enough plant protein in general including beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy and 100% whole grains helps protect against chronic degenerative diseases, notes Hopsecger.
Plant proteins are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and are naturally low in cholesterol and sodium, she says. Plant-based diets promote weight loss and maintenance and are cost-effective when youre eating on a budget. And many plant proteins are gluten-free.
When relying only on plant-based proteins, she adds that some researchers recommend getting 0.9 grams, versus the recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
2. Wild salmon
Wild salmon is the perfect source of lean protein and provides incredible benefits because of its anti-inflammatory fats.
4. Greek yogurt
How To Eat More Protein Foods That Come From Plants
Here are some easy ways to eat more protein foods that come from plants:
- Add soft tofu to a blended soup to make it thicker and creamier.
- Try a bean salad, lentil and rice pilaf or a bowl of vegetarian chili for lunch.
- Make your own trail mix by combining your favourite whole grain cereal with a handful of nuts and seeds.
- Spread hummus on the inside of a whole grain pita and fill with vegetables such as romaine lettuce and shredded carrots.
Each week, plan a couple of meatless meals. As your main course, try using:
- beans in a burrito
- tofu in a vegetable stir-fry
- chickpeas and beans in tacos
- lentils in a soup, stew or casserole
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How To Get More Protein In Your Diet
The vast majority of us have enough protein in our diet however, we lack high-quality protein, especially from whole foods.
One hack is to practice mindful eating.
Always opt for fresh, whole foods that provide all the nutrients your body needs instead of nutrient-empty processed foods filled with chemicals.
How you cook determines the nutrient content in foods as well. Deep-fried foods may be crunchier but it adds unnecessary oil and fats to your diet, which can increase the risk factors of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Choose healthier cooking methods such as baking, blanching, poaching or stir-fry.
Diet does not mean temporary alteration of your life for short-term gain, it means way of life.
Eric Edmeades, Author of Mindvalleys WildFit Program
The bottom line is,
You dont have to make drastic changes at once to get more high protein foods.
Start with substituting beef steak with lean chicken breast. Or replace meat with tempeh. And increase the amount of fresh vegetables per meal.
These tiny changes compound over time and will bring lasting changes to your health.
What are your strategies to incorporate more high protein foods to your diet? And what challenges do you face? Wed love to hear from you!
Let us know in the comment section below.
Know Your Total Calorie Goals
Eating more protein is thought to support weight loss, muscle gain, and improved health a number of different ways, but if you arent eating the right amount of calories protein intake isnt going to make much difference.
In other words, the first step in evaluating your food choices is calorie content. Learn how many calories you need to eat each day and then find foods that help you hit that goal consistently.
The easiest way to determine if a meal or snack is the right calorie fit is to plan out your day in advance. This is much easier than it sounds.
Take your total calorie needs and divide by the typical number of meals you have each day. If you need 2000 calories and eat three times a day, youd need roughly ~600 calories per meal with 200 calories to spare. Then use any remaining calories to account for snacks and wiggle room as needed.
Then use this amount to judge whether or not that high protein food is actually benefiting your overall diet.
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Health Risks Of Soy And Babies
Eating soy foods as part of your normal diet is generally more beneficial than harmful.
Although there has been concern that high consumption of soy for some men and people with thyroid conditions may be risky, research suggests this is not the case.
Studies have also shown the use of soy infant formula in healthy, full-term babies does not appear to be harmful. However, infant soy formula may be harmful to premature babies and is best avoided. Check with your maternal and child health nurse or doctor.