Why protein? Protein-rich foods help fill you up, keep you full longer, and jump-start your metabolism. Let’s take a deeper dive into prioritizing protein.
What is protein?
One of the three macronutrients (the others are fats and carbohydrates), proteins are organic compounds that are an essential part of body tissues such as muscle, hair, and collagen. In other words, proteins are the main building blocks of the body.
How much do I need?
Protein, at 4 calories per gram, is not a one-size fits-all type of nutrient. Protein needs are based on body weight. But as a rule of thumb, fill one-fourth of your plate for each meal with protein-rich foods. That’s about 20 to 30 grams. Athletes, older adults, growing children, and pregnant women may have higher needs. Always consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting a diet regimen.
What foods contain protein?
Every food group contains protein sources, but not all sources provide the amount or type of protein that our bodies need. Focus on quality over quantity. Animal-based protein sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are considered complete proteins. They contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need for energy.
More isn’t better?
Our bodies can digest and absorb only a certain amount of protein at each meal. Eat protein throughout the day with meals and snacks, but avoid overconsuming.
Salmon, grass-fed beef, Greek yogurt (higher protein than regular yogurt) and eggs. Plant-based protein sources such as grains, cereals, nuts, beans, lentils, and seeds are complementary proteins. This means they need to be paired with other complementary proteins to make them complete (with all the essential amino acids). Simply take a grain, bread, or cereal and pair it with a nut, seed, or bean. This ensures you get complete protein with each meal. Black beans, almonds, sunflower seeds, whole grain bread, quinoa (one of the highest protein grains), and protein powders.