Protein is essential for living organisms; it’s composed of long chain amino acids, and is the building blocks of muscle. It gives us energy, helps our bodies recover, and keeps our tummies satisfied. Lucky for us, protein is available in many forms, raw and cooked, all delicious! Below are the best forms of protein to eat for all diets:
1. Red Meat. Although it is debated by some, we truly believe that grass-fed beef does the body good! Beef contains all amino acids, zinc and iron, and is a good source of healthy fats. However, the source of your beef is also important. Buying beef that is grass-fed and finished (meaning it is not fed grains in the last few months to fatten it up), not given any antibiotics or hormones, and humanely raised will result in a healthier and better tasting product. Plus they won’t mess with your microbiome like antibiotic/hormone-filled meats will. Animals that are grass-fed are being allowed to follow their natural diet, and in turn their meat contains more antioxidants and vitamin E, and a higher content of conjugated linoleic acid which is a fat which helps reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Buffalo, lamb and leaner cuts of pork are other examples of healthy red meats.
2. Poultry. Pasture-raised/free range chicken is one of the best sources of clean protein available! It contains all essential amino acids and is extremely versatile. Again, buying pasture-raised chicken that is allowed to eat its natural diet of grasses and bugs is extremely important (chickens are not naturally vegetarians). This will result in a healthier and tastier chicken.
3. Fish. Fish is a great source of not only protein, but of omega-3 fatty acids as well. Omega-3’s are the good fats that actually help the body lose weight, improve cholesterol levels, and provide the body with ample energy.
4. Green Leafy Vegetables. In addition to being superfoods, leafy greens are also a perfect source of plant-based protein. Spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, and broccoli (to name a few) provide the body with protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Since leafy greens don’t contain quite as much protein per serving as beef or chicken, if you’re trying to stay plant-based, we suggest you pair them with legumes and/or grains, and you have a perfect meal!
5. Tofu. Tofu is a cheap source of protein suitable for vegans and vegetarians. About 4 ounces will give you 9 grams of protein! However, we suggest you do research on soy before eating only tofu as your main source of protein as it has been linked to increased estrogen levels and potentially other harmful effects. It’s important to buy organic or non-GMO tofu as well, since soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the United States!
6. Beans and Legumes. Although beans and legumes are not complete protein sources because they do not contain all essential amino acids, they make up for it in other areas. They supply your body with healthy carbs and filling fiber, and when combined with a grain, the two become a complete protein source! In snack form, the combination of beans and rice is delicious.
7. Eggs. Other than being easily digestible and a great and cheap source of protein, eggs are a great source of vitamins E, B12 and D, folic acid and biotin. It’s important to eat the yolks though – that’s where most of the vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are stored.
8. Quinoa. Quinoa is a complete protein, and is considered a superfood! It contains all 9 essential amino acids, supplies your body with iron and is a great substitute for rice. It’s also gluten free! We’ve got some great quinoa recipes on the blog, including this one for Quinoa-Stuffed Roast Veg.
The list isn’t done yet! Whole foods aren’t the only sources of protein for your body. There are many different types of protein powders that can be added to smoothies, bars and other types of snacks. These include whey, rice, pea, and egg white protein powder.
- Whey protein comes from cow’s milk, and is the most easily assimilated form of protein for the body.
- Rice and pea protein are vegan, comprised of 85% easily digestible protein, a good source of carbohydrates.
- Egg white protein powder gives you about 24 grams of protein per serving and is lactose free.
We love experimenting with all of these proteins to see what works best for our bodies. What is your favorite form of protein?