Protein is a complicated compound. Your muscles, collagen, enzymes, hair, skin, antibodies are all dependent upon it. It’s the building block and essential part of your structural components. My clients don’t seem to care much about that though 😉 They want to know what will keep their weight in check, what will keep them feeling satiated, what will combat cravings, and what will help them build lean muscle tone without bulking up. While they’re not surprised to hear that protein is key, they don’t seem to be so keen on the logistics of protein.
The type of protein you eat is JUST as important as the amount! Every protein source contains different amino acids or building blocks. Of the 20 protein “building blocks”, nine are only available through food sources. So, you quite literally have to eat your meat or eggs or combine your plant based protein sources in ways that ensure you get your essentials!
When getting protein from plant-based sources, it’s important to munch on various protein-rich plants at every meal to help guarantee you get all of the amino acids you need by day’s end.
Want to make sure you’re getting your protein from all of the right places? Here are some of the healthiest protein-packed foods you can eat:
Calorie for calorie, kale, spinach, collard greens, and other leafy greens (including romaine) are surprisingly rich in protein. For instance, one bunch of romaine contains about 7 grams of protein (juice a bunch for a protein rich green drink!). While greens don’t contain all of the amino acids you need, pairing them with beans and legumes can help make them “complete” with the nine essential amino acids. Remember, “mix your beans & leafy greens for complete protein“!
Poultry contains far less saturated fat than many other cuts of meat, yet still 30 grams of protein per breast! Always choose organic chicken options, you will skip the nasty antibiotics and hormones that give chicken a bad reputation. I suggest 4-ounce portions for a serving size, that’s still about 15 grams of complete protein. Add to whole grains or serve over leafy greens for even more protein, and always serve with vegetables for a more nutrient dense meal.
Beans, lentils, edamame, and peas… can you believe these are as rich in protein as they are in heart-healthy fiber? In addition, they also provide mood and energy boosting vitamin B. Am I the only one impressed that the humble green pea contains 8 grams of protein per one cup? Or, how about 20 grams in a cup of edamame!
The whole grain quinoa is actually one of the few “complete” plant-based proteins out there, meaning it contains all of the nine essential amino acids. Among the other great sources are bulgur and freekeh. Each contain approx. 6 grams of protein per cup. These heart-healthy whole grains contain more protein than complex carbs (which are vital to your fiber intake, heart health and weight-loss success).
Low in calories and high in nutritional value, fish is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, promoting heart health and happiness too! My favorite healthiest source: salmon. A 3-ounce serving of salmon is 17 grams of protein with 6.5 grams of unsaturated fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving of rainbow trout is a whopping 20 grams. Bring fish back to the table 2 times a week for best benefit. Although high in protein, I stay away from fish high in mercury (tuna, swordfish, shark, marlin, orange roughy, and mackerel are on my list to avoid).
Known for being rich in healthy unsaturated fats that keep your glowing and satiated, nuts are also nice for a boost of protein. Pistachio, Peanuts, Almonds, and Sunflower Seeds (I know, not a nut, but close!), pack the biggest punches of protein. Cashews and Brazil nuts are good choices too, with a ittle under 5 grams per ounce. Adding a spoonful of nut butter to your smoothies is an easy way to add plant based protein.
Dairy is not always a recommended item from me, but in moderation, high quality Greek Yogurt can be a great source of vegetarian protein. Greek yogurt containa less sugar, less carbohydrates and more protein than regular yogurt due to the whey being strained out. In 6-ounces of Greek yogurt, there are between 15 to 20 grams of protein. Go full fat on your Greek, but stay away from Greek yogurt flavored with fruits or honey as these are high in sugar. You can add fresh nuts (for more protein!) and berries yourself.
Eggs are delicious, versatile, and they contain 6 of the most valuable grams of protein around! Eggs rate the highest in terms of their “biological value,” the proportion of protein that, when eaten, helps form proteins and tissues in your body. If you want energy levels and the satiation factor, look no further than a couple eggs. Eggs over easy, cooked in coconut oil is a heart healthy, good fat way to start your day. Work eggs into your dinner by making an easy frittata or add a hardboiled to lunchtime salads. With new research on dietary cholesterol, eggs are losing their bad cholesterol reputation and gaining a new one for being a heart healthy food.
I’m curious how much protein are you getting daily and in what ways? If you’re not mixing it up and adding in some of the more inconspicious protein sources from above, I highly suggest giving it a try, go a little more plant based with your protein and let me know how it goes for you!
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