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Here’s the scoop on adding extra PROTEIN POWER to your day

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Aug 4, 2020

Some of your very best sources are likely in your kitchen already


From high protein shakes, high protein bars and high protein diets, protein continues to dominate as a super nutrient.  Yes, protein is an invaluable nutrient as it does a ton of various functions within our body. It’s needed for growth and maintenance, works as enzymes and hormones, enhances immune functioning, and is an essential compound found in every single one of the trillions of cells in the human body.

The best diet for supplying adequate protein contains ample but not excessive amounts necessary to build and repair muscle tissue.  Most people eating daily moderate amounts of protein already obtain adequate protein.  However, as humans, we do not store protein so it’s best to consume protein at each meal, evenly distributed throughout the day.

But how much do you need daily? An easy guideline based on the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is about 7 grams per 20 pounds of body weight. Therefore, a person weighing 150 pounds would need at least 52 grams of protein each day.

What are the best sources of protein to be eating? First, you can skip the protein powders and high-protein drinks. On occasion they may be fine, but there are far healthier (and cheaper)  natural, protein-rich sources found right in your kitchen. Here’s a look at 8 protein powerhouses, both plant- and animal-based:

  1. Lentils

One of my favorite plant-based proteins, lentils are always an economical and easy-to-use protein source.  Besides protein, lentils are a good source of fiber, necessary for relieving constipation and helping feed healthy gut bacteria. A  one-half cup serving of cooked lentils contains 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. Lentils cook quickly in about 20 to 30 minutes. Add to soups, brown rice, or marinara sauces served over whole wheat pasta.

  1. Edamame

I can’t say enough about this powerhouse of protein. Edamame are immature soybeans containing all 9 essential amino acids protein provides. They’re wonderful eaten uncooked with a chewy texture and mild flavor. One-half cup contains 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.  You’ll find edamame in your grocery store freezer section.  When shelled, throw them into stir-fries or eat them plain.

  1. Greek yogurt

An amazingly excellent source of high-quality protein (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids), plain Greek yogurt contains live and active cultures or probiotics, supporting a healthy digestive system. Nonfat Greek yogurts vary in their protein content but one-half cup may contain between at least 10 grams up to 15 grams of protein and 0 grams of saturated fat. Add in fresh or frozen fruit at the beginning of the day and by lunch, the fruit will have melted adding delicious flavor.

  1. Split Peas

If you’re looking for a protein punch, split peas should be your go-to. This legume amps up your protein intake with 8 grams in a one-half cup and 8 grams of fiber also. Low calorie and zero fat, split peas are perfect for simmering in soups.

  1. Egg Whites

Whole eggs offer plenty of healthy nutrients but it’s the egg white that contains all the protein with no saturated fat or cholesterol. One-half cup or 4 egg whites contain 13 grams of protein and only 60 calories. Best of all, egg whites versatility is amazing – hard boiled, scrambled, or poached, they’re good however you like them.

  1. Cottage Cheese

Do not overlook cottage cheese for pure protein power. Ready as is or with fresh fruit, a half cup serving contains an impressive 14 grams of protein and only 80 calories. Choose the lowfat or nonfat versions and preferably unsalted.

  1. Canned tuna or salmon packed in water

There’s nothing quite more economical, convenient and healthy than canned tuna or salmon. Three ounces provides a whopping 20 grams of protein and only 2 grams of saturated fat. Whether you like eating it plain, used in a sandwich, pasta salad, or on crackers, canned tuna and salmon is always a smart choice.

  1. Boneless Chicken Breast

It’s hard to beat boneless chicken breast for a great source of protein and low in saturated fat. Just 3 ounces, about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, contains 27 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat. Lucky for us, there are innumerable ways to use chicken breast.  Whether baked, grilled, or added to a leafy green salad, this phenomenal protein source always tastes great.

Want the latest on food science?

Click here to download a sample chapter of Cheryl’s book, The Nourished Brain, and get a free printable meal-planning guide so you can start eating your way to a healthier brain today.

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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