Protein is vital in a healthy diet and even more important if you are regularly exercising – especially if you lift weights. Protein is the building blocks of muscles and has numerous uses in your body whether you are working out or not. Amino acids from proteins are broken down into the body and are essential for various aspects of health, including tissue repair, hormone regulation and red blood cell development. When lifting weights your muscle fibres tear – eating protein after workouts speeds up the synthesis of those broken fibres, plus, it makes the muscles bigger.
So where do we get protein from? There are the obvious ones that most people will know about: milk, eggs, meat and poultry, fish, dairy products. But what if you are a vegetarian or vegan? Here are some non-animal sources of protein.
Dark green vegetables
Brussel Sprouts and kale are an excellent source of nutrition. A single cup of Brussel Sprouts offers as much as 5 grams of protein. Kale, which is related to the cabbage family, is popular among bodybuilders looking to gain mass as well as anyone trying to lose weight. There is as much as 2.2 grams of protein per cup (chopped) and as much as 4 grams depending on if it’s canned or frozen.
Edamame is a unique dish of soybeans that have been boiled or steamed in their pods, and are commonly found in various Asian cuisines. A cup of edamame can give a huge 17 grams of protein. It’s low in sodium too and high in fibre, iron, and magnesium. It makes a great snack.
Do you need something healthy to snack on? Then Sunflower seeds are perfect. Though small in size, sunflower seeds have higher concentrations of protein, and they make for a great source of vitamin E, fibre, and folic acid too. Sunflower seeds also contain phytosterols, cholesterol-like molecules found in plants, which help to lower cholesterol and enhance the immune system as well. For every 100 grams of sunflowers seeds consumed, you get a massive 23.4 grams of protein and a tiny 1.7 grams of sugar.
Quinoa is a grain-like protein source that can mixed into almost any recipe. Unlike other vegetable protein sources, Quinoa offers all nine essential amino acids necessary for human health – making it a complete source of protein. A single cup of cooked quinoa contains as much as 8.14 grams of protein and only 3.4 grams of fat.
If you still want to include meat in your diet, there are many that contain high amounts of protein, but many are also high in fat. 100 grams Beef, for example contains 22 grams of protein but 6.5 grams of fat. Compare that with Elk (more difficult to come by, but far better for you) which has the same amount of protein per 100 grams, but less than 1 gram of fat. Wild boar contains 28 grams per 100 grams of meat and 4 grams of fat and kangaroo has 23 grams of protein and less than 2 grams of fat.
However, probably the best source of meat based protein is Ostrich. More butchers are keeping this protein rich bird and at over 29 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat and only 4 grams of fat, it’s a great choice.
Many of the more common meats (beef, lamb, pork) are all good sources of protein, but they can be higher in fat. Don’t feel like you should exclude these completely; just be aware of the fat content. If you can get your hands on some of the less common meats mentioned above, then you can get a high protein packed meal, and not worry too much about the fat. Plus, they all taste great.
Protein is found in so many foods that you wouldn’t even think and many people are already getting enough protein without even having to think too much about it. But if you are struggling to get enough, then try some of the healthy protein sources above.
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