Whether you’re training for a race or just looking to keep up with the demands of daily life, protein is an important part of a balanced diet. It is an essential dietary component because protein is continually broken down to fuel the body, so new protein sources must be introduced as part of meals and snacks throughout the day to rebuild muscles and keep our organs and tissues strong and healthy. In fact, 18 to 20 percent of a person’s body weight is made of protein in various forms such as collagen, muscle, immune cells and fluid.
Considering the need of protein in the body, it’s also important to know how much protein an adult male or female should consume each day. Because every individual has unique dietary needs it’s difficult to provide an exact number, but a range of 50 to 80 grams of protein per day is acceptable, according to Liz Applegate, PhD and senior lecturer in the department of Nutrition and Director of Sports Nutrition, Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of California, Davis. Those who have a regular fitness routine can typically add an additional 10-20 grams each day. Consider eating approximately 25 grams of protein at each meal or distribute the total protein amount throughout the day at meals and snacks.
Just as they say that variety is the spice of life, it’s also important to eat a variety of protein sources because each can provide additional unique nutritional aspects. For instance, sources of protein such as eggs, chicken, beef, pork and turkey also contain essential amino acids and vegetarian sources of protein like tofu contains heart-healthy fats and isoflavones, cancer-fighting compounds. We’ve listed the top sources of protein below.
Top Non-Vegetarian Sources of Protein
- Beef Flank – about 31 grams per 4 ounces
- Sirloin (beef) – about 34 grams per 4 ounces
- Chicken breast – about 30 grams per 4 ounces
- Ground beef – about 30 grams per 4 ounces
- Pork loin or tenderloin – about 29 grams per 4 ounces
- Haddock – about 27 grams per 4 ounces
- Lobster – about 25 grams per 4 ounces
- Ham – about 19 grams for 4 ounces
Top Vegetarian Sources of Protein
- Pumpkin seeds – about 34 grams per 4 ounces
- Chickpeas – about 21 grams per 4 ounces
- Mixed Nuts – about 19 grams per 4 ounces
- Cottage cheese – about 15 grams per 4 ounces
- Quinoa – about 16 grams per 4 ounces
- Greek yogurt – about 12 grams per 4 ounces
- Tofu – about 10 grams per 4 ounces
- Black Beans – about 6 grams per 4 ounces
Where does most of the protein you consume come from?