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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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