Chicken is a staple in many diets and for good reason! It’s a great source of protein, lower in saturated fat than some red and processed meats, and it packs a nutrient-dense mix of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. For the leanest cut with the most protein, opt for grilled skinless chicken breast or skinless rotisserie chicken breast, one 3-oz serving delivers 26 grams of protein and 2.7 grams of saturated fat. You’ll also get key nutrients like selenium (which supports the immune system) and choline, which plays a role in memory, mood, muscle control, and heart health.
From burgers to BBQ, beef is a mainstay in many recipes. When it comes to protein, a 4-oz portion of 90% lean ground beef contains 23 grams. Keep in mind, ground beef and other red meats are often higher in unhealthy saturated fats than other protein sources, London says. “You can still enjoy beef, just aim to add a mix of other lean options (like beans and seafood) to your diet,” she recommends.
Nutritionally, one 5-oz salmon filet provides up to 27 grams of protein and is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in their most bioavailable form (aka the most useful to your body). Salmon is also an excellent source of potassium and vitamins B6 and B12, and naturally provides vitamins A and D. Most Americans aren’t eating enough seafood, according to the USDA. (For reference, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating a variety of seafood for a total of at least 8 ounces per week.) Salmon is a great way to help hit that target, enjoy it on your morning bagel, in pasta, baked with veggies, or even as a dip! You can also try experimenting with other fish like cod, snapper, arctic char, or trout.
Canned tuna is a great source of vitamin D and omega-3’s, and as a shelf-stable lean protein source, it can’t be beat for convenience! One 3-oz serving of tuna in water (half a can) delivers around 16 grams of protein. You’ll also get other key nutrients, potassium, selenium, and calcium. Canned tuna can often get a bad rep because of mercury concerns, but this mostly applies to white (albacore) tuna. That said, the FDA recommends limiting this type to 6 ounces per week or about one can, but light tuna and other types of canned, fresh, or frozen seafood can all help you get closer to the goal of at least 8 ounces of fish per week.
Shrimp, or prawns, are a delicious addition to many dishes and are packed with omega-3s and protein. Three ounces of cooked shrimp deliver 20 grams of protein. Shrimp often gets a bad rep due to its cholesterol levels, which are higher than other seafood options at 189 milligrams per 3-oz serving. However, recent research shows there’s no evidence to suggest that dietary cholesterol can increase risk of cardiovascular disease. The actual dietary culprit? Saturated fat. Shrimp has 0 grams of saturated fat per serving, making it a lean source of protein and a heart-healthy meat alternative.
While no single food you eat can make or break your health, eggs are considered one of the best sources of protein available, London says. They’re inexpensive, readily-available, nutrient-dense, and super versatile. A complete protein, one large egg contains 6 grams of protein. They’re also rich in choline, vitamins A and B12, and are one of the few foods that are natural sources of vitamin D.
Even though they’re not technically categorized as protein-rich foods by the USDA, milk and other dairy products are standout sources. One cup of whole milk provides 8 grams of protein. And since cow’s milk is often fortified with vitamin D and A in the U.S., you’re automatically getting some of these important nutrients by adding a splash to your morning coffee, using it as an oatmeal ingredient, or sipping on a cold cup of it post-workout. In fact, consuming a combination of protein and carbs after an intense workout may help improve muscle recovery. Despite being made from protein-rich nuts and seeds, plant-based milks (like almond, soy, or cashew) have lower protein levels. If you can’t tolerate lactose, soy milk typically has the highest protein at 7–8 grams per serving.
Cheese is a delicious way to add flavor to nearly any dish, and let’s face it, what doesn’t taste better with a little cheese? The addition can infuse your meals with extra protein and nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Based on the USDA portion guidelines, ⅓ cup of part-skim mozzarella delivers up to 9 grams of protein, a cup of low-sodium cottage cheese has 20 grams, and full fat, hard cheese like Parmesan packs 10 grams of protein per 1-oz serving. Like beef and other red and processed meat, cheese is a source of saturated fat. “The added benefit to full-fat hard cheeses is that they typically have stronger flavors, so you may find yourself using less,” London says. “This means you’ll still get the taste without overloading on saturated fat.”
Plain Greek yogurt is one of the most useful dairy-aisle finds, you can swap it for sour cream in dips or mayo in chicken salad; use it as a baking ingredient; add it to smoothies; or enjoy straight-up with fruit, nuts, or nut butter for a satisfying breakfast or snack. Unflavored nonfat Greek yogurt delivers 20 grams of protein per 7-oz serving. You’ll also hit 25% of the recommended daily intake of calcium with each serving. Once you’ve found your favorite way to enjoy it, experiment with plain natural yogurt and tangy skyr. While skyr is nutritionally similar to Greek yogurt, it’s actually a strained cheese made from skim milk.
Lentils are part of the powerhouse food group known as pulses, the dry, edible seed of beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas. Pulses aren’t just great sources of plant-based protein: They’re packed with fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. Nutritionally, ½ cup serving of cooked lentils provides 8 grams of protein. Eating lentils (and other pulses) as a part of a healthy pattern of eating has been linked to reducing risk of chronic disease, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Chickpeas are a stellar plant-based, nutrient-packed source of protein and fiber, one cup of canned, drained chickpeas delivers 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. Other nutrient highlights include B vitamins and soluble fiber, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that helps to slow digestion and absorption in your GI tract and has been associated with reducing risk of heart disease as a part of an overall healthy pattern of eating. Like the taste of chickpeas? You may also enjoy lupin or lupini beans, London says. They have a similar flavor, but a crunchier texture which makes them perfect for snacking. Plus, one cup delivers 26 grams of protein.
While peanuts are most often grouped in with nuts, they’re actually legumes. That explains why they’re a bit higher in protein—a 1-oz serving of peanuts has 7 grams of protein. For comparison, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios contain 5–6 grams of protein per 1-oz serving. Nut or legume, adding more of these plant-proteins to your diet is always a good idea since they provide healthy fats (in addition to protein and fiber). What’s more, replacing less nutritious snacks with nuts may help with weight management and has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and certain age-related diseases. In fact, substituting nuts for three servings of meat per week is associated with decreased risk of inflammatory biomarkers, according to a 2016 study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Adding edamame to meals and snacks is a simple way to boost your protein intake since a ½-cup serving of the shelled soy beans delivers 9 grams of plant-based protein. The filling combo of fiber (4 grams per ½-cup serving) and protein promotes satiety, making it an excellent choice whether you’re on a weight-loss journey or particularly prone to hunger pangs. Research also suggests that soy protein may help lower LDL cholesterol and is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Tofu is another great soy protein, a ½-cup serving packs 10 grams and is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fats, according to the USDA.
You need not wait for pumpkin-spice latte season, to enjoy pumpkin: Pumpkin seeds are a stellar source of plant-based protein all year. One ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds (about 85 seeds) has 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Munch on them alone or sprinkle over salads or oatmeal. They’re also a source of key nutrients like iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Another small-but-mighty protein source, just 3 tbsp of hemp seeds (about 1 ½ ounces) provides 10 grams of plant-based protein. Thanks to their mild flavor, which is similar to pine nuts, you can add them to nearly everything from salads and soups to cereal and smoothies. And despite their name, hemp seeds don’t contain any cannabidiol (CBD) or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). If hemp seeds aren’t for you, sunflower, sesame, and chia seeds are also rich in protein.
Content created and supplied by: JerryJoseph (via Opera
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