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Natural sources of protein

Essential Guide to Protein (2023)

Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting overall health. But with so many sources of protein available – from meat to plants – it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. In this comprehensive guide to protein, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this vital macronutrient: what it is, how much you need, and the best sources.

meat, food, protein

What is protein?

Protein is one of the three macronutrients essential to human health, along with carbohydrates and fats. It consists of amino acids – its building blocks – and performs numerous functions within the body, such as repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting immunity.

How Much Protein Should You Aim for?

The amount of protein recommended for you depends on several factors, including age, sexual activity level and body weight. As a general guideline, the RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day – so if you weigh 68 kilograms, that would equal 55 grams of protein daily.

Protein Sources

Protein can be found in a variety of foods, such as animal products like meat and dairy; plus plant-based sources like beans, legumes and nuts. Here are some of the best sources:

Meat and poultry

Meat and poultry are popular sources of protein, packed with essential amino acids. However, it’s best to select leaner cuts of meat in order to minimize saturated fat intake as well as calories.

Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood are great sources of protein, as well as being high in omega-3 fatty acids – essential for heart health.

Eggs

Eggs are an economical and convenient source of protein, as well as being packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

Dairy

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are packed with protein, calcium and other vital nutrients.

Different raw lentils
Different raw lentils

Plant-Based Sources

Vegetarian and vegans looking for plant-based sources of protein should consider plant-based sources like beans, lentils, nuts and seeds as they contain high amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. These items make great additions to their diet!

How to Include More Protein in Your Diet

Incorporating more protein into your diet doesn’t have to be difficult – here are some tips:

Eat Protein at Every Meal

Incorporate some form of protein into each meal, such as eggs, Greek yogurt or tofu.

Snack on protein-rich foods

Snacking on high protein snacks such as nuts, seeds or jerky between meals can help you feel full and satisfied.

Replace refined carbs with protein

Switch out refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta for protein-rich alternatives like quinoa or lentil pasta.

protein powder
protein powder

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements, such as protein powder, can be an easy way to up your protein intake – particularly for athletes and bodybuilders. But it is essential that you select high-quality supplements and limit intake beyond what is necessary.

Conclusion

Protein is an essential macronutrient for overall health and well-being. By including more protein in your meals, you can support muscle growth, boost immunity, and maintain a healthy weight. So make sure to include protein at every meal and choose different sources so your body gets all of its essential amino acids.

FAQs

Can You Get Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet?

Absolutely, it is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. In fact, many plant-based sources of this essential nutrient also boast high fiber levels, vitamins, and minerals for overall wellbeing. Vegan or vegetarian dieters don’t need to worry about missing out on protein; just ensure you incorporate various sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds into your meals for variety and nutritional benefit.

Can Too Much Protein Be Harmful?

Unfortunately, having too much protein can have negative consequences on both health and weight gain. Excess protein, while essential for our bodies, shouldn’t lead to kidney damage or weight gain as it’s converted to fat in the body. So while getting adequate amounts of protein is important, be mindful not to overindulge.

Are protein supplements necessary?

In general, protein supplements aren’t necessary for most people as the body can get enough from food sources. However, athletes and bodybuilders may find protein supplements beneficial in increasing their protein intake to support muscle growth; just make sure to select high-quality supplements and limit intake to no more than what is recommended by your healthcare provider.

Which type of protein is better for me – animal-based or plant-based?

Both animal- and plant-based sources of protein can be part of a balanced diet. Animal sources, like meat and dairy products, provide essential amino acids while plants like beans or nuts provide fiber and other important nutrients. Therefore, the key is selecting different sources of protein so your body gets all the essential amino acids it needs.

Can You Build Muscle Without Eating a lot of Protein?

Yes, it is possible to build muscle without eating an abundance of protein as long as you get enough calories and do regular strength training. But protein plays an integral role in muscle growth and repair, so making sure to get adequate amounts in your diet when building muscle is key.

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