Healthy Protein Sources

Healthy Protein Sources: Best Protein Rich Food Sources

Choosing the right healthy 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.

Must Read: Best High Protein Breakfast Options

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” healthy sources of protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids. Fruit, vegetable, and grain sources of protein lack one or more “essential” amino acids, 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. 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.

Research About Protein

  • A study of over 82,000 women concluded that eating low-carbohydrate diets high in vegetable sources of protein or fat 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.

Best Healthy Protein Sources

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

Must Read: Benefits of Hemp 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)CaloriesTotal Fat (g)Saturated Fat (g)
Turkey breast15310
Chicken breast1864.5
Beef eye of round18252
Chicken drumstick19462
Turkey breast with skin21482
Beef top round22662.5
Pork tenderloin21173
Chicken breast with skin22393
Chicken wing22993
Veal sirloin19073
Beef top sirloin22093
Chicken drumstick with skin224133
Lamb sirloin231104
And below are some not-so-healthy sources of protein…
Ground beef (80% lean)307218
Porterhouse steak3452510
Duck with skin3813211
Beef short ribs5324720

Grains

Healthy Protein Sources

• 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

Healthy sources of protein

• 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

what is a good protein food

• Soybeans, 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

best protein food

• 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

best sources of healthy protein

• 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

best protein food for weight loss

• 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

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