Often when people hear the word protein, they think of muscle – as in muscle heads at the gym. And while protein is indeed needed to build muscle, it’s not only the gym rats that need it – we all need it. Because of that, we wanted to find out which protein-rich foods were the best according to nutrition pros, and we’ve compiled them here for you.
Before getting to the list, let’s first discuss why protein is so important. From Medline Plus: “Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women.” There’s no arguing that it’s crucial to consume adequate amounts of protein, but keep in mind not everyone requires the same amount.
According to Mayo Clinic, “anywhere from 10% to 35% of your calories should come from protein. So if your needs are 2,000 calories, that’s 200–700 calories from protein, or 50–175 grams. The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.” And as we age, we lose muscle, so they recommend “about 1–1.2 grams per kilogram [of body weight]” for adults 40-50 years of age. Finally, anywhere from 1.1-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight for exercisers and those that strength train.
Of course, there are many supplements out there containing high amounts of protein but speak to any nutritionist or dietician and they will recommend first trying to get your protein requirements from whole foods before turning to protein shakes or bars. Supplements should be used for exactly that, to supplement your whole foods diet if you cannot reach your protein requirements through food alone.
Okay, you know protein is important, but which foods contain the highest amounts of this life-sustaining substance? It’s time to get to that list of the best foods for protein most recommended by nutrition experts. Of course, we want to know which foods you eat most often to satisfy your protein requirements, so comment below and let us know!
The List: Best Foods For Protein, According To Pros
It’s hard to beat these trusty little protein packed ovals. Eggs are known to have high bioavailability, meaning the body can easily absorb and use the protein that comes from them.
Healthline writes: “Keep in mind that egg whites are almost pure protein, but whole eggs that include the yolk provide many more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.” Also: “If you’re concerned about the cholesterol in egg yolks, it’s important to note that lots of research has debunked the idea that they’re bad for you.” Do keep in mind that consuming too many yolks may put you over your required daily fat intake, but in moderation there’s no need to fear them.
And if you’re looking to shed pounds, according to Diet Doctor: “Eggs are a great weight loss food because they help you stay full for several hours after eating. And although they’re high in cholesterol, they generally don’t raise blood cholesterol levels much.”
2. Chicken Breast
Here is another staple well-known for providing ample protein. Chicken breast is not only high in protein, but also low in fat when eaten skinless. And there are almost endless ways to prepare it, which can help to keep you from getting bored if chicken makes up a good portion of your diet.
And speaking of ways to prepare chicken, Eating Well shares a couple of tasty sounding ideas: “A simple Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken or Creamy Parmesan Garlic Mushroom Chicken recipe can be an easy weeknight dinner that includes this important nutrient in a delicious way.”
When it comes to poultry in general, WebMD suggests that you consume “white-meat poultry.” They go on to note that “dark meat is a little higher in fat. The skin is loaded with saturated fat, so remove skin before eating.” That’s not to say that you can never consume dark meat; just know that the fat content will be higher. As far as skin, it’s probably best to eat sparingly if at all.
3. Lean Beef
Many people avoid red meat, but lean beef is an excellent source of protein. Most medical professionals do recommend eating red meat in moderation, though. We’re not here to give medical advice, so please do consult your doctor or a nutritionist when it comes to what’s best for your body and diet.
Though lean beef was most recommended across the web, Medical News Today makes a place for fattier beef as well: “Beef offers high amounts of protein per serving. There is a range of different types of beef to choose from for weight loss. People following a moderate carbohydrate diet should eat lean beef whereas a person on a low-carb diet may eat fattier beef.”
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says of “red meat – which includes unprocessed beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton, and goat meat—should be consumed on a more limited basis. If you enjoy red meat, consider eating it in small amounts or only on special occasions.”
Salmon is a go to for those seeking protein in the seafood section, and for good reason, the benefits go beyond that of just the protein content. “[Salmon] provides key nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, iron, choline, vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and of course, lots of protein. A 3.5-ounce serving of salmon has nearly 20 grams of protein, with less saturated fat than many meat options, according to the United States Department of Agriculture,” writes Prevention.
Of course, there is the chance that salmon has a higher fat content than you’re looking for, in which case there are many other seafood options still high in protein.
And from Medical News Today, a great alternative to salmon: “Tuna is an excellent and widely available source of protein that also has a low-calorie count. Tuna is a lean fish with minimal fat. Add tuna to salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Be careful with additional dressings, such as mayonnaise, as these can add additional, unwanted calories.”
Of course, you can get protein from non-meat sources, and legumes are highly recommended across the web for a plant-based source.
“Legumes include a range of beans and peas such as black beans, chickpeas and lentils. They’re loaded with protein, fiber and many key nutrients including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Don’t let their small size fool you,” writes Johns Hopkins.
According to Healthline, “lentils are among the richest sources of plant-based protein you can eat, making them an excellent choice if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet.” They also note: “Studies show that people who regularly consume lentils and other legumes have a lower risk of developing health conditions like heart disease and fatty liver disease.”
So, if you’re not a meat eater and you’re looking for a good source of protein, Legumes will get the job done. Not to mention all the other benefits they’ll bring you.
You may also be interested in:
- Best Whey Protein Powders
- Eating Proteins at Breakfast is the Best Time for Building Strong Muscles
- Worms for Dinner?
- Medicine Plus
- Mayo Clinic
- Eating Well
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Johns Hopkins
- Medical News Today
- Diet Doctor
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