- Lean Meat
- Dairy products
- Legumes and Beans
Nutrition and diet are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. While that may sound cliched (which it is), it is the absolute truth. Along with proper exercises, the three main macronutrients; Carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the right combination contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Now that’s just a fancy way of saying have a balanced diet but, studies have shown having a protein rich diet does contribute in a person having a better metabolic rate and helps in weight loss. Protein rich diets are also a must for body builders or even for people who want to have freakishly large muscles. That is cool, now where can we get protein rich food or protein foods for short? Luckily, we outline that for you, but it is also worth considering, why do we need protein foods and is it easy to jump and start living a healthy lifestyle by changing our diet?
Anything we consume is broken down into its most basic form by our body. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are literally the building blocks of life. There are two types of amino acids namely, essential and non-essential amino acids. As the name suggests, essential amino acids are needed through our diet as our body cannot synthesize them. Our cells use these amino acids to construct proteins that are required in maintaining and regulating the cell. The proteins functions include but are not limited to increasing the immunity (Through antibodies), working as catalysts (enzymes) and is needed for cell signaling (Hormones). Proteins are what we are made up of, so our body needs a lot of it. Think of it this way, our body is like a rechargeable battery, and protein is the charge that allows our body to grow and repair itself. Hence, an average man needs to consume at least 56g of protein while a woman needs to consume at least 46g of protein in a day. Now, for a man or woman who work out regularly and are physically active, the quantity of protein needed goes way up. This is a relatively high amount compared to other nutrients. So, we must consume food sources that contain protein.
While the quantity of protein consumed is important, it is also important to know the quality of the protein food source. Yes, quality is as important as quantity. The quality of a protein is judged based on three parameters. The composition of essential amino acids, the digestibility and bioavailability of it. The bioavailability of amino acids means the availability of a form which can be readily digested and absorbed by our body. That’s why the quality of protein foods is so important, It’s as simple as, what good is consuming something if our body can’t use it? In fact, cow’s milk protein is used as a reference when comparing the quality and nutritive value of an unknown protein sample. Milk contains two types of proteins namely, whey and casein. Those names should sound familiar due to all the whey protein or casein protein powder advertisements and products you must have seen. Whey protein is 20% in composition in milk and is more quickly absorbed by the body as it contains branch chained amino acids whereas casein protein is 80% in composition in milk and is digested slowly by the body due to its amino acid composition. All though their amino acid composition might differ, their only difference lies in their digestibility as mentioned but, their nutritional value of protein is very similar. 30g of either whey or casein contains approximately 24g of protein, so the use is completely dependent on you. Now that you know how to judge the quality of protein foods, do make wise choices when choosing a particular meal and don’t just base it on the quantity of protein available in that food source. Now, its time to take a look at all the high-quality sources of protein foods namely, Dairy products, Lean meats, Poultry, Eggs, Seafood, Legumes and Nuts.
Milk is one of the highest sources of protein and also provides the highest quality of protein as mentioned previously. If it’s good enough for scientists to use as a standard, it sure must be good enough for us In terms of numbers, 125ml of milk contains 8g of protein, meaning a good mornings glass of milk ought to be enough to power your day. While milk contains both whey and casein, all dairy products do not have both. In the production of cheese, enzymes are added to milk which coagulates casein and the liquid is discarded. That liquid contains whey, so cheese would only contain casein protein. In all the dairy products, cheese has the highest content of protein. In a serving of 100g, it contains approximately 25g of protein. This would mean, a block of cheese every few hours would meet your protein requirement, right? Technically this is true, but cheese also contains approximately 32g of fat in that serving. Now you don’t have to be a scientist to know, that’s a lot of fat! This does not bode well especially for a person who works out or wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, Greek Yoghurt which also contains only casein is a high source of protein. For a serving of 100g, it contains approximately 10g of protein. So, a yoghurt serving after a workout or before sleep could help your body as it contains casein which is digested slowly by your body.
Meat is the most widely consumed food source across the world. They are well known to be good sources of protein but, it is also well known about their fat content. Luckily when it comes to lean meat, as the name implies, its not thin meat but rather meat with low fat and calorie content. The best part of lean meat being, almost no content of protein is lost. This type of meat includes beef, pork, turkey and chicken which has the fat content removed. Now a good argument could be made, the fatty content of the meat is the most delicious part but, when you look at the health benefits of lean meat, you might start be at peace with adopting the lean meat lifestyle. Lean beef is any beef cut which contains less than 10g of fat in a serving of 100g and it contains 26g of protein. As a added health benefit, studies show it helps in the lowering of cholesterol in the body. Now that’s a solid meal of a high protein diet with a side order of low cholesterol. Pork is the most consumed meat produce around the world and one of the highest sources of protein relative to other protein foods. For a serving of 100g, it contains 25.7g of protein. Lean pork like pork tenderloin, contains the highest protein content in the many varieties of cooked pork and at the same time, the fat content can be as low as a skinless chicken. Its well known that the skin of the chicken contains most of the fat. So skinless chicken is considered to be lean meat. Chicken is also regarded as a high protein food source. A chicken or a turkey breast for a serving of 100g contains 30g of protein while containing relatively few calories. While all these meat products are lean, it is important to remember the way they are cooked plays a major role in the nutrients acquired. You cannot expect fried chicken to have low fat content as well. The same applies to all the lean meat products.
Eggs have long been in the middle of the debate of whether it can or cannot be consumed by vegetarians. But there will never be a debate about it being a rich protein food source. One egg contains approximately 6g of protein, so in a serving of 100g, which would be equivalent to approximately 5 large eggs, that’s equivalent to 31g of protein. Now there has been a trend of avoiding the yolk of the egg to avoid the fat content. This is not a good practice to follow, as yes, the yolk contains fat but it also contains almost half the protein. So, avoiding the yolk means you are also not getting the total protein content of the egg. To add to the myths surrounding the egg, eating raw eggs like Rocky is not the best way to acquire protein. In its raw state, only half of the proteins can be absorbed by the body as they are not digestible by our body. In contrast, up to 90% of the proteins will be absorbed if the eggs are cooked well.
Seafood covers a wide range of meat products and it is one of the healthiest food sources available to mankind. They are low in calories, saturated fats and have very high minerals and vitamins. What about protein? Well, they are extremely rich protein food sources. In general, the protein in sea food is easier for us to digest as there is relatively less amount of connective tissue compared to any red meat or poultry meat. The meat of a Tuna in a serving of 100g, it contains 25g of protein while having fat of less than 2g. Even other common fish like, Halibut or Salmon only contain 2g to 5g of fat while at the same time having as much of protein as a Tuna. Even the fats in seafood is mostly unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are especially helpful in lowering of cholesterol level and has many health benefits. The addition of fish in your diet on a regular basis can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. In terms of other sea foods like shrimps, they too have low fat content and have high protein content. In a serving of 100g of shrimp, it contains 23g of protein. To add to this high protein diet, it is filled with antioxidants which reduces oxidative damage in your body. Seafood in general have many health benefits other than the fact that they are a rich protein food source.
So far, all the mentioned protein foodswere non-vegetarian. Now obviously consuming meat in all three courses across seven days a week is nowhere close to a healthy diet. You got to eat your veggies, or in this case, some plant-based protein foods. Now obviously, nuts can’t be consumed like a regular course meal but, you can pop one every now and then as they are protein rich and have great health benefits. Most nuts are good for your heart as they also contain unsaturated fats that helps in lowering cholesterol and are rich in fiber. In terms of proteins, almonds of a serving of 100g has 21g of proteins. Now keep in mind that 100g of almonds is quite a lot of almonds. This is the same case for all the nuts, while we have shown the measurement to be of 100g, that’s a lot of nuts! Peanuts for a serving of 100g has 24g of protein. Walnuts for a serving of 100g has 15g of protein. It is worth pointing out that the fats are relatively high in nuts compared to all the other protein foods, but they are mostly mono-saturated. None the less, it is something to keep an eye on.
Legumes and Beans
They are extremely healthy for the human body and most importantly contain the highest source of plant-based proteins. There are minor differences between plant-based protein foods and animal-based protein foods. Most notably, most plant-based protein foods do not contain all the essential amino acids. In other words, they are incomplete as they do not have one or more essential amino acids. In some cases, plant-based protein foods, may take longer to digest. Now it may seem like plant based protein foods is not the right way to go but, they have really have quantity of proteins, they have many health benefits which includes lowering cholesterol and with the right diet of beans and legumes, you can acquire all the essential amino acids. One example of a plant-based food source with all essential amino acids is Tofu. For a serving of 100g, Tofu contains 17g of protein. Some other example of plant-based protein foods includes soybeans, chickpeas and lentils. The one common trait in all the legumes and beans is that they all contain a lot of fiber along with having high protein content. For example, in a serving of 100g, chickpeas contain 12.5g of fiber and 14.5g of protein. High amount of fiber helps in your bowel movements and helps control blood sugar levels. So, plant-based protein foods offer major health benefits as well.
Choice of diet
As mentioned at the beginning, a balanced diet is key for a healthy lifestyle. A combination of all the above-mentioned food categories would mean you would have a healthy diet. Yes, they are all protein rich, but the diet also includes nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibers to help maintain a balanced diet. Your diet should also change based on your lifestyle and age. A young person needs a higher protein diet when compared to an older, more mature person. A person who is exercising may need a higher protein-based diet compared to a person who is not a gym rat. Any diet for that matter depends on your choice, but it is always important to know what kind of nutrients I can get form which food source. All the mentioned food products are common, so it is easy to adopt to a diet with high protein. Imagine this for a day, you wake up, have a glass of milk, have a few eggs for breakfast along with some nuts or beans, you have mid-sized lunch with some meat or seafood and you close of the day with something light. This is not so hard to imagine is it? It is a pretty simple diet that anyone can adopt and is quite frankly very healthy. Now if you are working out and require proteins that can be digested quickly, whey protein supplements are available for exactly those purposes.
Having a good protein diet generally translates to a person having a healthy nutritional intake. It’s always been the case; all the exercise or work outs only pay out if the diet of the person is right. Now, after reading so long about the benefits of proteins and the benefits of protein foods, please do not go overboard. Protein is good for you, but even that should be taken in moderation. Too much of anything is not good for the human body. Furthermore, as mentioned above, protein foods do contain other health benefits and other nutrients to ensure a balanced diet is maintained. That is the only way you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. So, if you have not been part of this lifestyle so far, it is time to join. As you can see, it’s not that different, besides you start to make minor adjustments to your diet and slowly before you know it, you will be part of protein rich diet, fit as a fiddle.
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