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9 of The Best Sources Of Protein You Need To Know About

9 of The Best Sources Of Protein You Need To Know About

You probably know protein is an important part of a healthful diet, but are you really getting enough? Protein is required to keep your body running at an optimal level. Protein is broken down into amino acid building blocks in your digestive tract, which are used to synthesize hormones, support proper organ function, repair damaged cells or generate new ones.

The current RDA (or Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day for adults over 18 years of age. This intake was defined by the IOM as the level requiews to meet sufficient protein requirements for the majority of healthy individuals. However, this is a recommendation to prevent deficiencies rather than support optimal health.

Additionally, the IOM has established an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein. The AMDR for protein falls between 10-35% of calories coming from protein. Interestingly, we consume only about 16% of calories from protein, demonstrating that protein intake actually tends to be on the low end of the scale and that there is quite a bit of room to increase intake.

Because of this, the recommendation is currently under debate in relation to the needs of certain population groups such as athletes or fitness enthusiasts. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that although athletes need only about 1 gram/kilogram/day of protein to maintain muscle mass, to build muscle mass, you need to eat about 1.4-1.8 grams/kilogram/day. A conversion tool can help you change your weight in pounds to kilograms.

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Protein foods should be part of every meal to insure you have a consistent supply of powerful amino acid building blocks available in your body throughout the day. Here are some of the best protein food sources to include in your regular diet.

Meat

It may be an obvious choice, but meat is a great protein source offering 25 grams in a three-ounce serving (about the size of a deck of cards). In addition, meat contains the important B-complex vitamins necessary for the metabolic process of turning food into energy. Red meat like beef and lamb are also good sources of iron and zinc. Choose lean protein such as poultry—like chicken and turkey— or lean cuts of pork, beef or lamb, which will help keep your calorie total in check. Beef jerky or turkey jerky are also great on-the-go protein packed snacks.

Seafood

Whether it’s sushi-grade salmon or canned (or pouched!) tuna, fatty fish give you about 20 grams of protein per three-ounce serving, along with a hefty dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But don’t forget other seafood sources. Shrimp, trout, tilapia and calamari offer between 15 and 20 grams of protein in just three ounces. Choose the fish you like best, and try to make seafood part of your diet each week.

Eggs

One little egg packs 6 big grams of protein. The majority of the protein content in an egg is from the white, but the yolk houses micronutrients like choline that supports cell structure and behavior. So crack open an egg tomorrow morning, snag a hard-boiled one for a mid-morning snack, or toss a fried egg over sautéed veggies for a quick weeknight dinner.

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Yogurt

A one-cup serving of plain yogurt contains 11 grams of protein. Since Greek yogurt can pack on about 2 times the amount of protein, you can see why the thicker Greek variety is getting all the protein hype these days. But the truth is, all yogurts are a good source of protein, as well as gut-health supporting probiotics. Yogurt comes in large tubs, in single serving cups, or even no-spoon-required tubes, so choose the one that suits your lifestyle and dig into this protein packed option. Jazz up plain yogurt with sliced or dried fruit, or use Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayo or oil in savory and sweet recipes alike.

Milk

Looking for a protein hit with every sip? Whether you prefer dairy or non-dairy alternatives, many milk beverages contain protein. How does your favorite measure up per one-cup serving? Remember, every little bit counts!

  • Skim dairy milk= 8 grams
  • Plain soy milk= 6 grams
  • Plain almond milk= 1 gram
  • Rice milk= 1 gram

Soy

Plant-based protein sources are vital for vegetarians and vegans, but meat eaters should also include these next few protein sources in their diet.

The trick to meeting your protein requirement from plant foods is to maintain variety. Each animal-based protein source offers all of the 9 amino acids that must come from our diets, but plant foods do not. Eating a wide variety of plant protein sources will help you get the essential amino acids you need.

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Also, plant-based foods offer health-promoting phytochemicals. For example, soy contains isoflavones, an antioxidant that along with soy’s protein content is thought to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. There are a wide variety of soy foods to consider adding to your protein routine. We already mentioned soy milk, so here is the protein content in other common soy based foods:

  • Edamame= one-cup, 17 grams
  • Soy nuts= half-cup, 16 grams
  • Firm tofu= three-ounces, 7 grams
  • Soy-based breakfast sausage= one patty, 10 grams
  • Soy-based burger, one patty= 11 grams

Nuts

A single handful of nuts, about one-ounce, provides 3 to 6 grams of protein (almonds and pistachios are among the highest). Nuts also offer a wide range of antioxidants and healthful fats, which makes them both nutrient-dense and relatively high in calories. So stick to just one-ounce per day as a snack or tossed on a salad. If you choose nut butters, stick to about one tablespoon.

Beans

Fiber may be at the top of your mind when you think about the nutritional content of beans, but their protein content cannot be ignored. For a one-cup serving, black and pinto beans offer 12 grams of protein, garbanzo beans have 16 grams, and lentils give you 17 grams! Beans are an inexpensive and filling way to add a hefty protein content to your day. Dry beans can be prepared ahead of time, and stored in the refrigerator for the week.

Whole Grains

Grains are often a protein source that can complement the plant foods (listed above) to ensure you are consuming the necessary amino acids in the right amounts. If protein content is your goal, make sure your grains are whole. One-cup servings of grains offer a range of protein totals:

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  • Quinoa= 8 grams
  • Whole wheat pasta= 8 grams
  • Buckwheat= 6 grams
  • Brown rice= 5 grams
  • Barley= 4 grams
  • 100% whole grain bread (one slice)= 4 grams

As with all foods, variety is important. Thankfully, grains pair well with almost any food—so get creative. A few plant-based combinations to try: brown rice with black beans, whole grain toast with almond butter, a quinoa salad with edamame, or a wheat roll with lentil soup.

Getting adequate protein is possible (and delicious) if your diet includes protein-rich foods throughout the day. Now you’re equipped to choose combinations you like in order to meet your daily needs.

For more guidance on your specific protein requirements, or how to pair protein sources, check out the resource below:

Kelda Reimers, Dietetic Intern at the University of Maryland, College Park contributed to this piece.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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