Protein is a micronutrient that is used to build and repair muscle. One of the roles it plays is in revving fat-burning metabolism and reducing the hunger pangs that can lead to making unhealthy choices by eating products high in sugar and fat like cakes and biscuits.
Protein helps to slow the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream, which can prevent the sudden spikes in blood sugar that are thought to encourage fat storage and sagging energy levels.
So how much protein does one need ?
It can vary from physique-minded individuals that should seek out at least 2 g of protein for each 1kg of body weight to maintain and build muscle to 1.2 to 1.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight for endurance athletes such as triathletes, long distance runners and cyclists.
For the average sedentary person, the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
It can be quite daunting trying to figure out which foods to eat to cover your protein needs. Here’s a list of foods to add to your protein-friendly grocery list:
1. Greek Yogurt
Protein Power: 23 g per 8 oz. serving ~ You also gain gut friendly probiotics bacteria and bone-building calcium.
Note: Plain Greek yogurt can contain up to three times less sugar than flavored types.
If you are intolerant to cow’s milk opt for goat’s yogurt which has 7g protein per 8oz serving.
2. Cottage Cheese
Protein Power: 14 g per 1/2 cup serving ~ a great bedtime snack to help build muscle.
Need to Know: Cottage cheese is known to be high in sodium. Choose a brand that contains less salt.
3. Emmental Cheese or similar types (Swiss Cheese - USA)
Protein Power: 8 g per 1 oz. serving
Note: If you're concerned about the calorie density of full-fat Swiss, low-fat versions have a protein-to-fat ratio of around 8-to-1, while still providing good flavor.
Protein Power: 6 g per 1 large egg
Egg whites are near perfect muscle food.
Note: Choose omega-3 eggs, free range and organic eggs. The best eggs are from home chickens roaming around a yard.
5. Whey Protein
Protein Power: 24 g per scoop, on average
Whey protein is one of the cleanest, fastest-digesting proteins on the market. It’s the perfect addition to any fat-loss or muscle-building diet.
Note: Whey protein is extremely anabolic, or good for building muscle, because it’s a particularly rich source of branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs.
6. Yellowfin Tuna
Protein Power: 25 g per 3 oz. serving
Tuna delivers easily digested, premium-quality protein. You'll also benefit from the healthy amount of B vitamins and the potent antioxidant selenium in its flesh. When possible look for albacore tuna, dolphin friendly tuna.
Protein Power: 23 g per 3 oz. serving
This is a great choice as it is also low in fat 2g per 3 oz serving.
Need to Know: Pacific halibut is generally considered a more sustainable choice than Atlantic.
Protein Power: 25 g per 3 oz. serving
Need to Know: Frozen octopus actually has an advantage over fresh because the subzero process works to help tenderize the meat. Canned octopus might also be an option to use as a salad topping.
9. Sockeye Salmon
Protein Power: 23 g per 3 oz. serving
Not only does wild salmon like sockeye taste better than its farmed cousin, it also supplies about 25 percent more protein. You’ll also get lots of anti-inflammatory, fat-fighting long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Need to Know: Look for salmon with the skin still intact, as it provides added flavor during cooking.
10. Light Tuna
Protein Power: 22 g per 3 oz. serving
Less pricey canned light tuna actually provides a little more protein than more expensive canned white tuna.
Need to Know: To save yourself some calories opt for water-packed tuna instead of the oil-packed gift of the sea.
Protein Power: 21 g per 3 oz. serving
Sardines are little superfoods of the sea. Packed with minerals, omega-3, protein and vitamin-D which can also boost testosterone production.
12. Navy Beans
Protein Power: 20 g per 1 cup serving
Beans are a fantastically cheap source of protein, and of the most commonly available canned legumes, navy beans lead the way. Each cup also supplies an impressive 13 g of dietary fiber.
13. Dried Lentils
Protein Power: 13 g per 1/4 cup serving
14. Roasted Turkey Breast
Protein Power: 18 g per 3 oz. serving
Being nearly fat-free, slices of deli turkey are almost pure muscle-making protein. So when it comes to lunch sandwiches, pile it high.
Need to Know: Steer clear of flavored turkey and other deli meats to avoid bringing home stuff you don't need more of, like salt, sugar, and lab-made flavorings.
15. Peanut Butter
Protein Power: 8 g per 2 tbsp serving
Peanut butter delivers more protein than the other trendier butter like almond and cashew.
Need to Know: Forget the reduced-fat versions. All they do is replace the healthy fat with not-so-healthy sugar. Choose sugar free versions where possible or with very low sugar content.
16. Mixed Nuts
Protein Power: 6 g per 2 oz. serving
Peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet.
Need to Know: Choose raw unsalted nuts and seeds. Avoid the salted and roasted.
17. Smoothie Drinks
Protein Power: 16 g - 20g per 1 cup serving
Add in fruit, a cup of yogurt or some whey protein and you have yourself a refreshing high protein drink.
Protein Power: 8 g per 1/2 cup serving
Found in the frozen-food section of most supermarkets, these green soybeans will give your diet a boost of plant protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Need to Know: To upgrade your snack time, prepare shelled frozen edamame according to package directions, then season with fresh lemon juice, a pinch of chili and salt.
19. Green Peas
Protein Power: 7 g per 1 cup serving
While protein is not abundant in most vegetables, subzero green peas contain enough that you'll want to keep a bag stashed in your freezer at all times. They're also a good source of fiber to help keep cravings for junk food at bay.
20. Wheat Germ
Protein Power: 6 g per 1 oz. serving
The wheat grain is made up of three components—endosperm, bran, and germ. The germ is the most nutrient-dense part and includes notable amounts of plant-based protein. You can use it to add a protein boost to your oatmeal, pancakes, and even shakes.
Need to Know: To preserve freshness, it's best to store wheat germ in the refrigerator or freezer.
21. Soba Noodles
Protein Power: 12 g per 3 oz. serving
Consider using these buckwheat Japanese-style noodles for your pasta nights since they contain more protein than most wheat-based noodles. Even better, they cook in about half the time as whole-wheat pasta.
Need to Know: To remove the excess starch that can make the noodles gummy, it's important to rinse cooked soba after draining.
Protein Power: 8 g per 1 cup serving
This whole grain contains a full arsenal of essential amino acids, meaning that it's a complete protein with muscle-making potential.
Need to Know: Toasting quinoa in a dry skillet or saucepan before simmering it in water can enhance its natural nutty flavor.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !