Which Protein Type Is Best for Your Diet?
January 13, 2019 | Categories: Weight Loss & Nutrition
No matter what diet you’re following, it’s important to get enough protein in your diet in order to build lean muscle, keep organs functioning and your immune system operating, as well as helping your hair and nails grow!
If you have restrictions based on food allergies, food sensitivities, diet preferences, or a medical condition, it’s important to adjust the types of protein you eat according to your diet so you’re not missing out on essential nutrients. Here, nutritionist Erin Palinski-Wade, author of The Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, shares some easy ways to work protein into every meal and snack for any diet of diet:
If you’re on a vegetarian diet, try…
- Beans: In just two cups of kidney beans, you can get 26 grams of protein!
That’s more than you would find in a small hamburger. Beans are not only rich in protein, but they’re also a terrific source of fiber and iron. Incorporate them into recipes such as chili, soups, salads, or even veggie burgers.
- Firm tofu: With 20 grams of protein per half cup, tofu is one of the richest sources of plant-based protein. Since it absorbs the flavor of most foods, enjoy it in stir-fries, as a substitute for ricotta cheese in pasta dishes (like lasagna), or use a silken tofu blended into your breakfast smoothie.
- Sunflower seeds: These seeds contain one of the highest amounts of protein of all seeds with 7 grams per 1/4 cup. They also provide a good source of healthy fats as well as a source of zinc.
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If you’re following a vegan diet, try…
- Edamame: With 8 grams of protein per half cup, edamame (soybeans) can be enjoyed steamed or dry roasted as a healthy snack on their own, as an appetizer, or tossed in stir-fries.
- Quinoa: This seed is one of the only plant-based sources of complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Adding quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”) to a vegan diet is an easy way to help you meet your protein needs. Mix it together with steamed or stir-fried vegetables and your favorite seasonings for a delicious, protein rich meal.
- Almonds: These nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and protein. Enjoy an ounce of almonds as a snack or sprinkle slivered almonds over a salad for a protein boost.
- Green peas: In just 1 cup you can get 8 grams of protein, which is the
same amount of protein you would take in from 1 cup of cow’s milk. Try adding them to pasta dishes and on salad, eating them dried, or enjoying the as a side dish on their own.
If you’re following a dairy-free diet, try…
- Eggs: These breakfast favorites are a good source of complete protein. Select eggs from hens fed a vegetarian diet to help you take in an additional source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain and heart health.
- Fish: Packed full of lean protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (in salmon), aim to take in two servings of fish per week.
- Soymilk: Non-dairy milk alternatives can help you to enjoy milk without
the concern for dairy. Soymilk contains a similar level of protein to cow’s milk (about 8 grams per cup). You might want to look for soymilk brands that are fortified with vitamin D and watch out for sweetened varieties, which can pack in large amounts of sugar. (You might want to try almond milk but be aware that it only has about 1 gram of protein per cup.)
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If you’re following an eco-conscious diet, try…
- Soy-derived proteins with cashew bases: This is a more eco-conscious choice over almond-based protein sources for those wary of the effects of almonds on the California drought.
- Cashew butter: This nut butter is a good way to pack in both protein and heart-healthy fats. Use it as a spread, mixed into smoothies, or blend 2 Tbsp. with 2 cups of warm water to create your own homemade cashew milk.
- Chickpeas: With 7 grams of protein per ½ cup, chickpeas are a great, versatile plant-based protein source. Use chickpea flour in baked goods to boost your protein intake (you can use it as you would flour in fritter recipes, or make it into a pancake, or example), roast the chickpeas for a high protein snack, or enjoy them mixed into a soup or salad.
- Hemp: These can be enjoyed in the form of hemp seeds mixed into smoothies, salads, or trail mix. You can even drink hemp milk as a non-dairy milk alternative. This food provides a good source of low-calorie, plant-based protein.
- Chia seeds: With almost 5 grams of protein per ounce, chia seeds are a great way to boost your protein intake as well as your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They’re delicious mixed into smoothies and salads, and you can even make chia pudding by adding the seeds into your favorite liquid (like cashew milk) since they absorb a significant amount of water and take on a gelatin form. It’s a delish snack or dessert you can feel good about eating!
If you’re an omnivore and aren’t on dietary restrictions from your doctor:
- Chicken: This lean poultry is a favorite amongst healthy eaters looking to amp up protein without a lot of fat and calories. Start with boneless, skinless breasts and add grilled chicken to salads, pastas, fajitas, and more. A 3.5-ounce portion of a boneless, skinless chicken breast has 21 grams of protein.
- Pork: If you’re calling to mind crispy bacon slices and wondering how pork can be part of a healthy diet, look to lean pork options like boneless pork chops and pork tenderloin for juicy, high-protein meats to base meals around. There are about 22 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin.
- Red meat: Keep red meat portions to about the size of a deck of cards (3 ounces). Look for words like “round,” “loin,” or “sirloin” as those are leaner cuts. There are about 23 grams of protein in a 3-ounce portion of round steak.
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