Why you should include protein rich foods in your diet?
► Since every cell in your body contains protein, protein in your diet will help your body repair cells and make new ones.
► Protein is important for growth and development during childhood and adolescence.
► Protein is absolutely essential for growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy.
► Your body uses protein to make hemoglobin.
► Proteins build your heart muscles and other muscles.
► Your immune system is made of proteins. No wonder, proteins protect you from disease.
► Out of the 22 amino acids that are required by the body to function, 13 are made by the body itself. You can get the other 9 (called essential amino acids) only through consuming protein-rich foods.
How much protein to consume?
An adult needs to consume about 60g of animal or vegetable protein daily. A child needs to eat about 0.5g of protein for every pound (1g for every kilo) they weigh.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following serving sizes for protein:
► 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (a portion about the size of a deck of playing cards)
► 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans
► 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 1 ounce of cheese
Meats contain the highest amount of protein amongst all foods. Poultry meats are healthier than red meats because they are lean proteins and have lower saturated fats.
One of the best sources of good quality protein and minimum carbs is skinless chicken. Best served cooked or roasted, a serving of half a breast with bone and skin removed contains 27g of protein and only 142 calories. The other plus points are this food is low in sodium and high in niacin, selenium, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and other seafood are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats, vitamin D and selenium; they are very high in protein (16g to 24g per 3-ounce), and low in saturated fat.
Fish is not just a high quality protein food. Eating approximately one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines) reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent. Eat fish at least once or twice a week as it may also reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic conditions, say researchers.
With 6.3g of proteins and 72 calories per egg, it is considered to be one of the best high quality protein foods. Moreover there are 13 nutrients in one egg. Expecting mothers, don't forget to eat an egg daily; it contains choline which is essential to healthy fetal development.
However, despite their taste, value, convenience and nutrition, eggs are high in cholesterol (185mg per egg). But there is an easy solution to this problem. Eat egg whites if you want to avoid cholesterol; it is very low in cholesterol since almost all of the cholesterol is present in the yolk. Further, it is low in fat and contains 3.6g of protein per egg.
Beans / Legumes
Most beans and legumes contain 7g to 9g of protein per 100 grams of the boiled product. These foods are considered to be the best protein source for vegetarians. Black beans, cowpeas, chickpea, mung, rajma, pigeon pea (arhar) and other legumes have several other nutritional benefits too - they are rich in dietary fiber and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and iron, and are good B-vitamin sources.
Nuts and seeds may be consumed in low quantities but they are very good sources of protein. For example, an ounce (28g) of almonds contains 6g of proteins, and the same amount of peanuts contains 7g of proteins. Brazil nuts have the highest amount of available protein, and are rich in amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds are very low in cholesterol and sodium. They are also a good source of niacin and manganese.
With 8g of protein per 100g of tofu, this vegetable substitute for milk based product paneer is perhaps one of the best sources of vegetable protein. Tofu, made from soy milk, is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is also a good source of iron, calcium and phosphorus and vitamins A, B12, D, and E.
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products are important sources of protein. They are also a storehouse of calcium, so essential to keep the teeth and bones in a healthy condition and to prevent osteoporosis and arthritis. Low fat alternatives of milk and milk products are healthier options because they provide less fat without compromising on the proteins.
For example, an ounce of reduced fat parmesan cheese provides 6g of protein, whereas the same amount of low fat cheddar cheese provides 7g of protein. A cup of low fat milk contains 8g of protein. In addition, this food is a good source of vitamin B12 and selenium, and a very good source of vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus.
Whole grain cereals are considered as carbohydrate foods but some of them are good protein sources as well. One such example is couscous. This is a quick cooking grain made by rolling durum wheat flour with salted water to form small kernels. A cup (157g) of cooked couscous contains 176 calories, 36g of carbohydrate and 6g of protein.
This pseudo-cereal is a 'perfect' protein, in the sense, that it contains more than 8g of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids. Use this versatile food as hot breakfast cereal or in the cool summer salad; add it to soups or toss it with other vegetables.
Spinach and Brussels Sprouts
Who would have thought that these ubiquitous leafy greens that are so rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, could sneak into protein rich foods category too! Well, a cup of boiled spinach can give you 5g of proteins and the same amount of boiled Brussels sprouts gives you 4g of proteins.
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