Quantcast

Best Healthy Sources of Protein

sources of proteinChoosing the right sources of protein is an integral part of eating healthy.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain lean muscle, or both, if you don’t eat enough protein–or the right healthy sources of protein–you’ll have a very hard time accomplishing your goals.

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient that’s found in your muscles, bones, skin, hair, and nearly all other body parts and tissues.

A group of compounds called amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino acids are essential for humans because your body can’t create them … it needs to take them in through food. Animal proteins are called “complete” sources of protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids. Fruit, vegetable, and grain sources of protein lack one or more “essential” amino acid, so they’re called “incomplete” sources.

How much protein should you eat?

It depends.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), adults need between 0.3 – 0.34 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.[1] But when you factor in exercise those numbers look much different. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says if you routinely get light-to-moderately intense exercise, you should take in 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound. For high intensity athletes, they recommend even more: 0.7 to 0.9 grams per pound.[2]

Research about protein

  • A study of over 82,000 women concluded that eating low-carbohydrate diets high in vegetable sources of fat or protein resulted in a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. However, women in this study who ate diets high in animal fats or proteins, even if they were low-carb, didn’t experience a reduced risk of heart disease.[3]

Best healthy sources of protein

If you’re a meat eater, you have plenty of healthy protein foods to choose from. Vegetarians have a much harder time getting adequate amount of protein.

I put together this chart that shows the top healthy sources of protein by food group (Meat & Poultry, Fish, Grains, Dairy & Eggs, Beans/Legumes, Nuts & Seeds, and Fruits & Vegetables):

Meat & Poultry

MEAT/POULTRY (4 oz. serving) Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
Turkey breast 153 1 0
Chicken breast 186 4 .5
Beef eye of round 182 5 2
Chicken drumstick 194 6 2
Turkey breast with skin 214 8 2
Beef top round 226 6 2.5
Pork tenderloin 211 7 3
Chicken breast with skin 223 9 3
Chicken wing 229 9 3
Veal sirloin 190 7 3
Beef top sirloin 220 9 3
Chicken drumstick with skin 224 13 3
Lamb sirloin 231 10 4
And below are some not so healthy sources of protein…
Ground beef (80% lean) 307 21 8
Porterhouse steak 345 25 10
Duck with skin 381 32 11
Beef short ribs 532 47 20

Grains

• Brown rice, 1 cup – 5 grams
• Quinoa, 1 cup – 9 grams
• Whole wheat spaghetti, 1 cup – 8 grams
• Bulgur, 1 cup – 8 grams
• Whole wheat bread, 1 slice – 3 grams
• Oatmeal, 1 cup – 5 grams
• Wheat germ, 1/4 cup – 8 grams

Dairy & Eggs

• Egg, large – 6 grams
• Egg white – 3.5 grams
• Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams
• Cottage cheese, ½ cup – 15 grams
• Yogurt, 1 cup – 10-12 grams
• Greek yogurt, 1 cup – 20 grams
• Soft cheeses– 6 grams per oz.
• Medium cheeses – 7-8 grams per oz.
• Hard cheeses – 10 grams per oz.

Beans/Legumes

• Soy beans, 1 cup – 28 grams
• Tofu, ½ cup – 20 grams
• Lentils, 1 cup – 18 grams
• Black beans, 1 cup – 15 grams
• Kidney beans, 1 cup – 13 grams
• Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), 1 cup – 10 grams
• Baked beans, 1 cup – 10 grams
• Lima beans, 1 cup – 10 grams

Nuts & Seeds

• Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup – 19 grams
• Peanuts, ¼ cup – 9 grams
• Flax seeds – ¼ cup – 8 grams
• Peanut butter, 2 T – 8 grams
• Almonds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
• Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup – 6 grams
• Almond butter, 2 T – 5 grams
• Cashews, ¼ cup – 5 grams
• Pecans, ¼ cup – 2.5 grams

Fruits & Vegetables

• Sweet corn, 1 cob – 5 grams
• Baked potato with skin, medium – 5 grams
• Spinach, 1 cup – 5 grams
• Peas, ½ cup – 4 grams
• Artichoke, medium – 4 grams
• Avocado, medium – 4 grams
• Swiss chard, 1 cup – 3 grams
• Asparagus, 5 spears – 2 grams
• Broccoli, ½ cup – 2 grams
• Blackberry, 1 cup – 2 grams
• Banana, large – 2 grams

Fish

• Most fish contain around 28-30 grams of protein per 4 oz. serving…a few popular fish choices are below
Wild Alaskan salmon, 4 oz. – 29 grams
• Sole, 4 oz. – 28 grams
• Cod, 4 oz. – 27 grams

 

This article is #4 in my 9-part tutorial called “Healthy Eating 101”.

To go to the next article about healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats click here.

To read article #3 about healthy fiber sources click here.

Sources


[1] http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/5_Summary%20Table%20Tables%201-4.pdf

[2] http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7085#.UC6LaaB62So

[3] Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, et al. Low-carbohydrate-diet score and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med. 2006; 355:1991–2002.