A healthy and balanced nutrition is a fundamental pillar for our wellness. Therefore, our daily diet should include foods rich in protein, minerals and fatty acids.
However, some people want to sculpt their muscles and have a good physique or to achieve specific objectives. Then, the best thing to do would be to eat foods rich in protein.
So, in this article, we are going to talk about the foods that are rich in protein.
How much Protein do I need?
Before starting, there is a very easy way to know the amount of protein that we need to consume daily. This will support the functioning of our organism, which will be able perform all its functions without any issues. In general, those who do exercise at least 3 times a week should take 1.8-2.5g per kg of body weight.
Apart from eating foods rich in protein, athletes can use supplements like protein shakes in order to meet their protein requirements
Proteins and Amino acids
First of all, we need to know that proteins are made up of bound amino acid chains. These are broken down during the digestion in order to be absorbed by the organism. Supplementation helps us obtain protein and absorb the amino acids faster depending on the type of protein. For example, Hydrolyzed Proteins have the faster absorption rate. Therefore, if we want to progress, we will have to follow a diet according to our objectives. Eat foods rich in protein and take protein shakes in order to meet the nutrient requirements.
This concept refers to those sources of proteins that have all the essential amino acids. These are key elements that play a crucial role in the physiological functions of the organism. Moreover, they help to regenerate, preserve and grow new tissues. However, our body cannot synthesize them, which is why we need to obtain them from the diet or protein supplements.
Foods Rich in Protein
Once you know how much protein you need on a daily basis, it is time to find out the foods that are rich in proteins. We are going to split them in two important groups according to the origin of the food: animal or plant. On the first case, these products are rich in complete proteins. On the contrary, the ones from plants tend to lack some of the essential amino acids, which is why they are called limiting amino acid.
Now, we will see the what are the best sources of proteins available. As you can see, there are a plenty of alternatives when it comes to following a healthy and balanced diet. Amino acids are necessary in order to perform vital tasks, as well as to improve your body composition and achieve your objectives!
Animal Foods Rich in Proteins
You may already know that animal protein origin are more complete than the ones from plants. Above all, this is due to the similarities between our genetic code and that of animals. These macro-molecules have all the amino acids that you need, since those of vegetable origin tend to lack some of these amino acids.
If you want to know more about this issue, read our article about the types of proteins
It tends to be the best one when we are trying to cut some calories since it barely has any fat. In fact, it is the leanest source if we compare it to red meat. Its protein supply tends to be around a 20-25% per serving. White meat is not only a great source of proteins, but it also provides vitamins and minerals that help us meet the daily requirements of these micronutrients. For example, B vitamins are useful to prevent cataracts and skin disorders, apart from supporting the immune system, the digestions and the nervous system. To top it all, they also help to prevent migraines, cardiovascular disorders, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
In addition, it also provides vitamin D which is necessary to absorb calcium and to strengthen the bones. Vitamin A supports the proper functioning of the sight. Minerals like iron are useful to produce hemoglobin, for the muscle activity and to reduce the cases of anemia. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes that keep us hydrated, and phosphorus is useful to deal with muscle weakness and metabolic problems, apart from supporting our bone health, the brain function and the teeth.
Some examples of this type of meat are chicken, turkey, rabbit, duck…
This type of meat tends to be the most abundant one in the diets of people who want to lose weight or improve their muscle tone.
This type provides a lot of iron, iodide, zinc, manganese, selenium, and vitamins A and B. Its main inconvenience is its high fat content, a fact that we should take into account depending on the amount of calories that we should consume according to our requirements. The percentage of proteins from this source is around 21%.
There are specific cases of foods from animals that have more proteins than the average. For example, pork loin has a 50% of proteins and only a 8% of fat. Cod also deserves a special mention, because even if it only has a 17.7% of proteins, its supply of fats is practically non-existent (0.4%). On the other hand, ham is a food that we should take into account, since it provides 20.5g of protein per 100g. In this sense, these proteins have a high biological value, apart from important fats for the organism (like in the case of serrano ham), which is why they are an indispensable food in the diet of athletes.
Fish is very rich in proteins and in several nutrients as well. It is digested very easily, specially white fish. This is why it is an indispensable food in any balanced diet. Apart from having vitamins A and D and a lot of minerals, fatty fish (sardines, salmon, tuna, or mackerel, for instance) is very rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids, which regulate blood pressure effectively, apart from maintaining cardiovascular health. 100g of fish, regardless of the type, has an average of 20-23g of proteins, and it barely provides any fats in the case of white fish.
Some examples of white fish are hake, cod, tilapia, bass, sole… while some examples of fatty fish would be salmon, tuna, sword or emperor fish, sardines, or trout.
One of the most attractive features of eggs is their versatility. In fact, they have such amount of nutrients that their consumption is highly advisable for everyone. However, they mainly stand out due to the quality of their proteins. Because, even though they only have a 6% of these macro-molecules in their composition, its biological value is so high (they have the 8 essential amino acids) that it is used to measure the quality of the rest of protein sources. Moreover, they are rich in vitamins A, B, E, and K, folic acid, calcium, zinc, and iron. They only provide 4.5g of fat per 100g, and only 1.5g of them are saturated. Most of the protein content is found in the egg whites, while the egg yolk supplies the micronutrients, which is why it is advisable to eat the whole egg.
The myth that eggs are bad for your health has long been busted to become an important element in the diet of any person.
Milk: it is not a great source of proteins either if it is skimmed or not. In fact, 100 milliliters will only provide around 2.5g of proteins. However, if we talk about skimmed milk powder, this changes radically. It is actually possible to increase its percentage of proteins up to a 35% thanks to several processes that do not affect other properties like its high levels of calcium and vitamin B.
Cheese: it is an excellent source of proteins without any doubts. However, it should be consumed moderately due to its high percentage of fats. We should mention as well that cured cheese has more proteins. In this sense, cured manchego cheese provides up to 32g per 100g. In the same way, semi-cured manchego cheese has 29g of proteins while fresh cheese has 26g. The percentage of protein of Edam cheese reaches a 29%, 23% for Roquefort, and 21% for Cabrales cheese.
Yogurt: everyone knows that yogurts help with the proper functioning of the digestive tract. In general, it has great amounts of potassium, magnesium, group B vitamins, and calcium, which is why it helps with bone regeneration and growth. But it also provides a 9% of protein from animals. Including yogurts in any diet is quite easy, thanks to their versatility and pleasant flavor. We should not forget to mention the great amount of probiotic agents that it has and the fact that they strengthen the immune system. A particular case would be the milk ferment Kefir, which has a lot of benefits for our health.
Another food, even though it may not be regarded as such, but which is a great source of proteins, is Whey Protein.If you want to know more about the Biological Value of Whey Protein, click here
Foods Rich in Proteins from Vegetables
Foods of vegetable origin have less protein that those of animal origin and, in biological terms, they are considered incomplete sources of proteins or limiting, due to the fact that they lack some amino acid. However, since they deserve their own group due to their many other beneficial substances and their minimal fat content.
We could not miss the opportunity to talk about this source since more and more people are starting to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, even among high performance athletes.
Cereals are one of the most consumed foods in the world. They have proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3). The amount of proteins per serving tends to move between a 5-15%. They are generally consumed for breakfast, specially whole grain or whole cereals, due to the fact that they produce more satiety and a sustained energy supply. They are also an excellent choice as a meal previous to any type of demanding activity. However, one of the main inconveniences of this type of food is gluten, a type of protein that is present in wheat, which affects those who suffer the celiac disease. However, if you do not suffer this pathology, the consumption of cereals is totally advisable for anyone and it can be eaten without any issue, except if you want to limit the amount to regulate the supply of calories.
The best choice would be oat, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, rye, kamut… or we can even make our own homemade bread with these cereals, like Ezekiel Bread.
Legumes are the best source of proteins from vegetables. They are rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates as well, and they have an excellent nutritional richness, providing group B vitamins (specially folate), apart from minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Moreover, they are also rich in fiber, including both soluble and insoluble fiber, apart from resistant starch with benefits for the health of the colon. They have phytonutrients like isoflavones, lignans, protease inhibitors… with important benefits for health, specially to prevent certain types of cancer. Legumes are a great choice for those who are sensitive to gluten.
We can highlight beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and soy. Contrary to popular belief, we have included peanut in this list because it is a food that belongs to the leguminous family.
The percentage of proteins on average in this family of nutrients, tends to be around a 15-20%. Legumes have relatively slow amounts of the essential amino acid called methionine (which is more abundant in the grains). On the other hand, grains have relatively low amount of another essential amino acid, lysine, which can be found in legumes. This is the reason why we should combine legumes with cereal grains in order to obtain a good amino acid balance (complete aminogram) which is necessary for growth.If you want to learn more about Soy Protein, click here
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts can provide a very useful supply of proteins and calories. They are not a good pre-workout because our body does not digest them instantly. Although we can eat them at any other time of the day to benefit from their nutritional supply. However, you should eat them moderately if your objective is to maintain the body weight since they provide a lot of calories per 100g, more than 600kcals approximately. A handful of nuts should be enough. The supply of vegetable proteins is around 20g on average. We can purchase a butter or spread made with some of this nuts and use it for our recipes as well.
The nuts with the highest percentage of proteins are pistachios, cashews, almonds, and walnuts
Seeds are an extraordinary source of vegetable proteins since they also have an excellent nutrients balance. They stand out due to their supply of omega 3 fatty acids, like the ones that can be found in linseed. They are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In regard to proteins, they tend to provide around 20g per 100g, which is a considerable amount, even though we only tend to use a serving of 20-30g approximately for our recipes.
Within this group, we want to highlight chia, pumpkin, hemp, amaranth…