Of the three macronutrients (two of them being carbohydrates & fats), the one most commonly touted for its health benefits is protein. Protein is an absolutely essential nutrient for your body’s overall function. You might know protein as something that builds muscle, but it actually serves many different critical functions. Because it is so essential, it is necessary to make sure that you consume a proper amount of protein on a regular basis.
Protein Needs to Be Broken Down
Your body’s digestion system breaks down this protein into amino acids and then redistributes them to perform a wide variety of different functions in your body, per self.com. Protein is indeed essential for muscle growth, as well as for the growth and repair of other tissue in your body, including your bones and organs.
Protein is also important for critical bodily functions such as hormone production, blood clotting, and immune system response. Clearly, consuming sufficient protein is crucial for you. Whether you eat meat or not, there is a wide variety of protein-rich foods available for you. Following some of the best and most accessible means of getting your daily share of protein:
Chicken is naturally choc-full of protein. According to healthline.com, a single six-ounce chicken breast contains more than 50 grams of protein. Compared to other meats such as beef and pork, chicken tends to contain less excess fat. All animal products such as chicken are considered “complete proteins,” meaning they contain all nine of the essential amino acids which your body cannot produce by itself.
There are a variety of different fish available on the market including salmon, as well as other seafood such as shrimp and crab. Like chicken, fish are complete proteins. Fish also provide a few other health benefits, most notably from the vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids they contain.
Vegetarian Sources of Protein
Soy: Per self.com, soy is the only plant product that is also considered a complete protein. Soy is found in many foods, such as soymilk, which is strained from soybeans. It is the central ingredient in tofu, and the editors at vegetariantimes.com explain that soy can be found in many different dishes from salads to sandwiches to pudding. Soymilk, made from fluid strained from soybeans, is also a healthy source of protein.
Greek Yogurt: This alternative to “normal” yogurt can contain up to twice as much protein as the regular thing, according to vegetariantimes.com. Greek yogurt is an easy food to prep, and it comes in a variety of styles. It can be mixed with natural sweeteners and fruit, and can make for a delicious, protein-packed dessert. There are roughly 17 grams of protein per 6 oz. serving of Greek yogurt.
Nuts: A variety of nuts contain a significant amount of protein, including almonds, walnuts, and peanuts. They are easily portable, need no preparation before consumption, and they can also be consumed as a butter. Almond butter and peanut butter make for a tasty complement to other foods, or a quick and easy snack on their own. For every ounce of nuts you eat, which is one serving, you can expect to consume about 5-7 grams of protein.
Lentils: Lentils are legumes, which are the cousin to beans. The editors at vegetariantimes.com recommend lentils for their “hunger-quelling” qualities, and their relatively quick and easy prep time. Lentils make for a good “staple” part of your diet, and can be prepared with spices and other trappings. Lentils make for a solid component of a well-balanced diet, and contain roughly nine grams of protein per ½ cup serving.
When considering how much protein you should consume, the ideal amount will vary based on factors such as your age, weight, and level of physical activity. According to harvard.health.edu, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for men and women equates to roughly .36 grams for every pound of body weight.
If you exercise regularly or spend time doing vigorous physical activity, a higher amount of protein will be necessary for your body to remain strong. If you eat enough protein-packed foods and follow these guidelines, your protein intake is sure to meet a healthy standard.