Protein is one of three macronutrients required by the body to keep things going, the other two of these are carbohydrates and fats. When it comes to choosing a protein, there are several options- and they are NOT created equally.
Why do we need protein?
Protein is used by the body for several different processes, not just for helping grow muscles. They are utilized:
- As enzymes: Proteins are needed as an “assistant” to make different reactions and processes happen in the body. Without those enzymes, we won’t be able to digest food, produce energy or use the muscles we’ve built.
- As hormones: Proteins and peptides can act as hormones by helping different cells in the body communicate.
- As part of the immune system: Proteins are also antibodies. These antibodies circulate through the body and protect us from getting sick.
- Tissue Building: We need protein for growth and for the ongoing maintenance of our tissues – skin, hair, nails, muscles – everything needs to be built and rebuilt consistently. We need protein for that!
A general rule of thumb is that adults should consume between .6 grams – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, depending upon activity level.
Children should be consuming about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
So, we know that steak and chicken have protein, right? Sure. But did you know that many vegetables can have just as much (if not more) protein than meat?! Vegetables pack a SERIOUS punch when it comes to vitamins and nutrients while avoiding fatty, inflammatory animal tissue, making them a vital part of our diets. Aside from veggies, our other favorite source for protein is from eggs! Each egg contains roughly 7 grams of protein in a beneficial form called albumin, which is processed very efficiently by the body. Eggs are easy and have a long list of essential vitamins and minerals.
Top 10 VEGGIES High in Protein:
- Broccoli: 1 cup of chopped broccoli contains 2.5 grams protein
- Green Peas: 1/2 cup of green peas has 4 grams protein
- Mushrooms (more protein than meat!): 1 cup whole white mushrooms contain 3 g protein. That’s 14 grams of protein per 100kcal- which beats ground beef!
- Asparagus (more protein than meat!): 1 cup asparagus contains 3 grams protein- That’s 11 grams of protein per 100kcal, which again beats ground beef.
- Artichokes: 1 artichoke contains 4 grams
- Brussels Sprouts: 1 cup Brussels Sprouts contain 3 grams
- Cauliflower: 1 cup chopped cauliflower contains 2 grams
- Edamame (more protein than meat!): 1 cup frozen edamame contains 13 (Aaand, with 10 g protein / 100kcal edamame is doing much better than ground beef)
- Spinach (more protein than meat!): 100g of spinach has 3g protein. That’s 12 grams per 100kcal, which once again beats ground beef!
- Arugula (more protein than meat!): 100g of arugula has 2.5 grams protein. Seriously, this green has 10 grams of protein per 100kcal and ground beef is really sad by now.
Now that you’ve seen how much protein vegetables can have, let’s look at nuts and seeds! These can get you even MORE bang for your buck when looking at protein content. Mind you, we’re only looking at protein here, don’t forget about all the healthy fats and vitamins/ minerals these little powerhouses have!
Our Top 10 list of protein packed Nuts and Seeds:
•Peanuts (go organic with these!)
•Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas
Aside from vegetables and nuts/ seeds.. Beans, legumes and some grains can be high in protein. Getting protein from real food is always the way to go. However, sometimes with busy schedules and being on-the-go, it can be hard to get in all of the required micro and macro nutrients.
If choosing to supplement with protein powder, it’s imperative to be educated on what to look for. It’s important to keep in mind that these are supposed to fill in the gaps and not be a main source of protein. No supplement compares to getting nutrients from their whole food source because the amount of vitamins and minerals that come along with them are unprocessed and plentiful. If deciding to use a protein powder, here are a few things that we recommend you look for:
- Plant Based Protein Powder
We feel plant based proteins are optimal because they provide a clean source of protein. Our bodies are able to process plant protein effectively and efficiently. Whey proteins and animal products produce an acidic environment in the body, which we want the opposite of. They often contain a mixture of common dietary triggers, such as dairy, eggs or wheat and can easily be cross-contaminated during manufacturing.
Most plant protein supplements are made from pea, hemp, brown rice, soy, or a mixture of these. In our opinion, the top performer overall is hemp because of the rich nutrient profiles. Pea protein is the runner up, here, but look for it in a blend, as it has a texture unfavorable to many. Soy is a good choice as long as it is organic and used in smaller amounts- not as a main source. Plant protein may seem confusing because it doesn’t have all 9 essential amino acids in it. This can be solved by looking for a protein that is a blend of different plants/ vegetables/ nuts/ seeds. These blends end up being much more nutrient dense than your typical whey blend.
This is a must. If unable to find an organic option, please make sure it is at least non-GMO. Whether using whey or plant proteins, if they aren’t organic, the plants and animals are often treated and processed with chemicals over their life span and once further processed and condensed, more chemicals are added for stability, flavor and shelf-life. This ends up being a quite large amount of chemicals in a small amount of powder. It’s not uncommon powders to have large amounts of trace pesticides and heavy metals from growing/ farming conditions.
- Gluten Free
We like choosing a Gluten Free powder for a couple different reasons. Several supplements are cut with unnecessary fillers that are empty in terms of nutrients, calories and protein. Eliminating gluten also eliminates several of these fillers and also is much easier on digestion. Too much gluten can cause inflammation, sluggishness and grogginess which is counterproductive when choosing to optimally fuel our athletic bodies. Something else to look at is that there are no added sugars/ artificial sweeteners, dangerous preservatives or other additives!
Looking for more nutrition-related content? Check out out a couple of our past blog posts:
Fueling For Success: Snack Edition:
Sugar Intake :