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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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