Protein is often referred to as the building blocks of life, as it’s made up of amino acids, which are required for the body to function at optimal levels. When it comes to protein, bodybuilders are devout to it and aspiring weight-losers are starting to comprehend how beneficial it can be.
Unfortunately, getting more protein in the diet is only healthy if it comes from a good source. In other words, eating triple stacked burgers is going to do more harm than good, regardless of the protein content. Here are some healthy ways to get more of it in your diet.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Unfortunately that is not a simple answer. The amount of protein we require varies based on age, lifestyle, diet objectives and many more options. We focus on the norm- average adults between 20 and 60 years old. It is typical that men in this age group exceed the protein recommendations, this age group of men tends to eat more meat, poultry and eggs than recommended. Even athletes often get more protein than they need without supplements because their calorie requirements are higher.
Calculating the amount of protein gets confusing. Most guidelines are in grams. According to Dietary Guidelines from the National Institute of Health (2), a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. That means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average woman should eat about 46 grams. What does that mean when I eat a meal? In plain words aim for anywhere between 10%-35% of your calories coming from protein. A typical adult requires 2,000 calories per day, 200-700 calories should come from protein.
And for women during pregnancy, you should get a minimum of 75 grams of protein a day (and shoot for 100), which will account for at least 25 percent of your calorie intake. Protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the babies brain.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Your child requires protein for the proper growth and functioning of his body, including building new tissues and producing antibodies that help battle infections. Without essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), children would be much more susceptible to serious diseases. Kids need protein to provide the building blocks for their muscles to grow. (1)
There are a variety of sources we can get protein from. These include meat, fish, eggs and plant based sources. A typical portion of meat or fish is 3- 4 ounces. (how often do you see a four ounce steak on the menu?) A typical serving size is about the size of a deck of cards.
Plan to build your meals with protein as the guest of honor. Many people make the mistake of thinking that meal planning has to be glamorous, featuring the best, elaborate recipes from Pinterest. In reality, meal planning can be really simple: choose a protein source, fill half your plate with vegetables, and add a small serving of complex carbs.
Look for Plant-based Sources
Usually, when someone hears about plant-based diets, they imagine vegetarians and vegans. However, plant-based eating without further distinction often refers to those who prefer to prioritize plant sources of food. The reasoning behind this varies based on the people: some are simply looking for healthier food sources while others focus on sustainability issues choosing food that can reduce the environmental impact.
The other benefit of eating plant-based diets is affordability. Chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, and other plant-based protein sources are often significantly more affordable, so your dollar keeps you fuller longer. While eggs and Greek yogurt don’t fall under plant-based foods, they are other meat-free options that have numerous benefits. Following are a few tips to insure your plant based diet provides your nutritional needs.
- There are a variety of plant based milks that you can select. Almond and soy based milk are two of the most popular, but there are a large number to select from. Look for a product with added calcium and vitamin D – these micronutrients are found in dairy, but can be obtained through plant-based sources as well.
- The vitamins and minerals in whole grains are important for your overall health. Also, the high fiber content of whole grains may help with lowering blood pressure and lowering insulin levels. high-protein grains contain less saturated fat than protein from animal sources, and they’re rich in important nutrients like B vitamins. Choosing whole grains in their whole forms—such as brown rice, barley, oats, corn, and rye—are healthy choices because they pack in the nutritional benefits of whole grains without any additional ingredients.
- Sprinkle nutritional yeast on your meals – this flavor-filled ingredient is a great source of vitamin B12, a nutrient commonly obtained from meat.
- All you need is a handful of nuts, which is about an ounce or a quarter of a cup, and you will get a lot of bang for the buck. Nuts and seeds contain anywhere from 3 to 7 grams of protein per ounce! They are also a good source of fiber.
- Soy foods are rich in nutrients including B vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and high-quality protein. Unlike some plant proteins, soy protein is considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make which must be obtained from the diet.
As you can see there are a variety of sources for plant based protein. And adding more plant-based protein provides a number of health benefits, plus as many believe provide environmental benefits for the health of our planet. And you do not need to follow a full plant-based diet. Many of these options can be easily used as options in your regular diet.
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Clean Protein Supplements
Supplements are a great way to increase protein levels, especially in active individuals. However, it can be challenging to separate the healthy supplements from those targeted toward bodybuilders who prefer extra assistance in reaching their goals. Generally speaking, there isn’t much to worry about with protein supplements as long as you know which red flag ingredients to look for.
Most protein supplements are derived from cow’s milk, using either whey or casein as the main source. There are also vegan protein powders for those who opt for something animal-free.
Adding nuts to your diet not only adds a plant-based protein, but also a nice dose of healthy fats, which make them heart healthy.. Nuts are a main component of the highly renowned Mediterranean diet, which focuses on healthy sources of fat, protein, and carbs while keeping food as real as possible.
While not technically a nut, peanuts have the highest amount of protein of what most people consider common nuts followed by almonds and pistachios. Try to choose unsalted or unsweetened nuts. Adding salt or sugar to nuts may cancel out their heart-healthy benefits.
Nuts are versatile and can be incorporated into any meal. Sprinkling coconut on your yogurt in the morning or almond slivers on your salad are simple ways to boost an already delicious treat. Snacking on a handful of nuts in between meals can keep you feeling satiated. Be sure to pay attention to serving sizes when snacking on nuts as they are high in calories in relation to the healthy fats within. Additionally, avoid overly processed nuts that have added oil and seasoning.
Many of us also refer to some seeds as nuts. Culinary seeds come from vegetables (such as pumpkins), flowers (such as sunflowers), or crops grown for a variety of uses (such as flax or hemp). Seeds have mostly healthy fats, some fiber, and about 150 calories per ounce. And they do have protein, about 5 to 9 grams per ounce. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are also good sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, with two or three times the ALA of walnuts.
Eat Protein All Day
The best way to boost your protein intake is to ensure you’re getting a serving at every meal. Eggs and Greek yogurt make for a delicious breakfast option. Tuna or minimally-processed lunch meat are great for versatile lunches. Chicken and salad with a side of lentils make for a great supper. You will feel fuller longer and fuel your training and recovery if you’re sweating it out at the gym.
By spreading out protein throughout the day you will stay full longer and less likely to grab snacks. Most people tend to get most of their protein during evening meals by eating meat or fish. Breakfast is often the meal with the least amount of protein. Recent research studies show moving some protein from supper to breakfast can help with weight management by decreasing hunger and cravings throughout the day. Some great sources of morning protein include eggs, Greek yogurt, protein pancakes and nut butters.
Getting the right amount of protein in your diet is not that difficult. Most of us can meet our protein needs by including a serving of dairy at each meal and a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards at lunch and supper. Give it a shot and let us know how eating the right amount of protein makes you feel.