Protein in Nutrition
Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, because it provides a person with essential amino acids that the human body cannot manufacture itself. The most recent recommendations prescribe that adult women should consume 46 grams of protein daily to avoid a deficiency, while adult men need at least 56 grams per day. Additional protein is needed for growing children, those who are pregnant, or preparing or recovering from illness, trauma, or surgery.
But what are the best sources of protein? The high-protein foods that give you the most bang for your buck (and calorie) are listed below.
Whey is a by-product of cheese production, separating from milk during curdling. It is one of the best food sources of protein, because of the high bioavailability to the body. Whey also helps regulate blood sugar levels, as it increases insulin secretion.
Whey has the highest BV (Biological Value) score of any protein source--a 100, meaning that 100% of the nitrogen in whey is absorbed by the body. Consequently, whey protein is a popular nutritional supplement, especially among bodybuilders as a post-workout snack. It is commonly available in powder form, to be blended into shakes and smoothies.
Eggs & Egg Whites
Eggs might seem small and insignificant, but they pack a protein punch! A whole egg receives a higher score on the BV scale than egg white alone, but many health-concious consumers prefer egg whites for other dietary concerns.
The average USA large egg white contains 4 grams of protein and only 20 calories. With only trace fat and no cholesterol, egg whites are a favorite among dieters and those at risk for heart disease. While egg whites do not receive a BV score equal to whey, they do score just as high on a different protein scale, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which measures protein quality based on the human body's amino acid requirements.
Soy, in its many forms, has long been touted by healthy-living enthusiasts for its many benefits. Soybeans are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help control blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as supporting the immune system.
It is a particularly good food source of protein, because they offer what is called a "complete protein profile." According to the FDA:
- Soybeans contain all the amino acids essential to human nutrition, which must be supplied in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the human body.
Soy can be consumed its original bean form as edamame, stir-fried, roasted, or steamed. Soymilk and tofu, as well as soy protein powder, bars, chips, and meat-substitute products, which used to only be available in health food stores, now line supermarket shelves, making soy more accessible than ever to the average consumer.
Meat & Fish
Meat and fish are what most people think of when they hear the words "protein foods." In fact, in terms of the digestion and absorption of protein, they don't quite measure up to the standards set by whey, soy, and eggs. But while meat and fish may fall behind other sources of protein as far as bioavailability to the human body, but they're still not to be underestimated.
Meat, like soy, contains all of the essential amino acids, but contains less carbohydrates and no fiber, providing less complete nutrition than some of its protein-rich non-animal counterparts. Concerns over fat and cholesterol also encourage consumers to find other sources of protein.
Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and pork, as well as lean cuts of beef and less fatty types of fish are wiser dietary choices, since they contain less saturated fat, which has been linked not only to heart disease and diabetes, but to cancer and osteoporosis. Fish typically contains 20-25 grams of protein per 4-oz serving, while 4 ounces of meat generally provides 25-30 grams of protein.
Other Protein Foods
Foods that are not primarily considered protein can still contribute to your daily count. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt can provide diversity from more traditional protein-rich foods. Whole grains like whole wheat pasta and brown rice have a much higher protein content than refined and white equivalents. Beans and legumes, as well as nuts, are also good sources.
As with fruits and vegetables, it's vital to eat a variety, not only to give your body the best nutrition possible, but also for your own sanity! You're more likely to get enough protein if you're not tired of eating it. Protein deficiency can have disastrous consequences for your health, and it's more common than you might think, especially among dieters. So however you get your protein, please get it!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Joanna Slodownik from New Jersey on September 25, 2013:
I have to disagree :-) More and more scientific and medical research proves that the best protein (meaning best for overall health, as well as the compassionate choice - it's enough to view some videos from animal factory farms to know why) comes from ...plant foods. These include legumes and beans (and soy), but also leafy greens (excellent source of protein - something like 50% per calorie), as well as other vegetables and whole grains, nuts and seeds (hemp, chia, etc). I recommend work of Dr. Joel Fuhrman for those who are curious about the science and health benefits of plant-based proteins.
will glennon on October 03, 2012:
According to my thought, All sources of protein foods are the basic building blocks to healthy living being.. and my observation is that every one should be take any kind of protein foods for stay cool with god fitness...Thanks for sharing..
multivitamin mineral :- http://www.energyfirst.com/Natural-Health/Suppleme...
beaddve1800 from Toronto on June 22, 2012:
Interestingly, I read this article long time ago before I joined HubPages. Shared!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on March 27, 2012:
This is great information on protein. I like your mention of the superiority of whole grains vs refined and the importance of variety in our diet. Thank you!
eatforcheaper from London on March 07, 2012:
I absolutely love eggs. I find that they do fill me up nicely as well without feeling bloated. When I tried a low carb diet eggs were my "carb substitute". I'd have meat with veg and scrambled eggs for instance to take the place of rice or potatoes being on my plate. I know they taste nothing alike but it somehow helped?!
Ckoois01 on February 12, 2012:
It's important to know that too much unfermented soy can be detrimental to vegetarians' and vegans' health... it's better to get protein from fermented soy sources such as TEMPEH.
irene k amboyon on February 08, 2012:
I finally knew it!!!!!!!!!
Sheila on December 21, 2011:
Nice hub on protein.
Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 07, 2011:
Nuts and some grains or grain-like crops (e.g., quinoa) are also are excellent sources of protein!
marvin-cebu on September 10, 2011:
great!!! i love meat too
susan eve rudolph on August 28, 2011:
MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT IS MY FAVORITE PROTEIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
ann on August 20, 2011:
i love MEAT
Protein powder for women on July 25, 2011:
I recommend just straight up protein powder. It's a great way to get extra protein without fat and carbs.
eric shun on January 18, 2011:
this info is great now im going to eat lots of pasta and soda so i can build the muscles to lift bags of bricks into my car
Papa Sez from The Philippines to Canada on August 12, 2010:
Hi Maddie! Great hub and I linked it to my new hub about eating insects. Have you considered including edible insects as alternative source of protein. Why don't you check out my new hub to learn more. Lots of advantages to entomophagy!
thanks, Papa Sez
alchix on May 03, 2010:
everyday i always drink soy milk..great source of protein !
Emily on March 03, 2010:
I need a lot of protein in my diet and this helped me out soooo much! Thank you!
3:41 Runner on February 16, 2010:
an amazing hub - eggs rule
Melanie Munn on January 11, 2010:
One of my favorite sources of protein is the organic peanut butter I eat each morning with a small apple. It's pretty inexpensive and yummy. Nice hub. Thanks for sharing.
Aisha on December 01, 2009:
Im now happy with myself for taking alot of protein...yeeehooooo!
climberjames from Steel City on November 17, 2009:
Good hob thanks, I intend to give soy a go! - climberjames
lols on November 05, 2009:
yno what? thanks i really lookin for this type of page to see what foods have protein
anonymous on October 29, 2009:
ima drink one egg a day :D
sheryld30 from California on September 25, 2009:
I found this to be quite helpful. Thank you! :)
Neiva on September 23, 2009:
Never used to really care about protein. Now that I started my diet I realiEd protein was essential. Love it now. I'm taking Herbalife and have lost13 lbs in weeks. very good protein shakes
Abhijith Bob Babu from Saskatchewan, Canada on September 10, 2009:
You really did a good deal of work...
Carol on August 29, 2009:
JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on July 10, 2009:
Very creative and very informative. I love this hub.
bogartkick on May 30, 2009:
Protein is very important in our daily needs. It helps strengthening our immune system with the support of vitamins and minerals. I like eggs during breakfast.
James Brown from United States of America on May 08, 2009:
Great information - thanks for sharing.
Indian lady from India on April 07, 2009:
have you forgotten dry fruits? These are better than meat and fish.
quiet tracer from South-Asia on March 10, 2009:
very nice information maddie.
keep it up.
people magnet from Florida's East Coast on February 25, 2009:
Whey protein is a good and vital part of my diet. Health and Wellness is one of my top subjects. Thanks for the helpful tips on the variety of protein products.
I appreciate the explanation on each protein group. Nice layout with pictures.
My affliation with a Wellness and Nutrition Research company has taught me that the most effective whey protein in the world has a bonded-cysteine molecule that raises GLUTATHIONE in each cell.
GLUTATHIONE, according to researchers is critical for a healthy immune system. I thank my dear friend for passing on to me access info on the best WHEY to stay healthy.
TaylorRyan from Charleston, SC on February 19, 2009:
As part of my current weightlifting regiment I am taking in a ton of protein... my favorites are whey and egg whites mixed together and microwaved for about 70sec... taste AWESOME and has around 30 g of protein depending on your whey brand.
cegainesjr from No Mans Land on February 05, 2009:
Great hub. I am lactose intolerant, so I prefer soy to whey. Great food facts.
Lawrence J. Hoberman from San Antonio, Texas on January 20, 2009:
Thanks for the protein tips! In response to the comment by betherickson, I have a dear friend who is a personal trainer and makes a decent protein shake. She uses either cooked oatmeal or plain, salt-free rice cakes with 1.5 scoops of Essential Natural Protein (chocolate) with 12 ounces of water. Be sure to blend it up nicely to avoid clumping. I personally prefer the protein with just water, but the oatmeal or rice cakes do add a little bit of texture to the shake.
Cleanclover from Piece of land! on January 04, 2009:
I eat eggs and chicken for proteins. also protein biscuits are preferred. i need muscles and so proteins a must
Dr. James on December 30, 2008:
Yes soy is considered a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Vegetarian sources for protein don't contain the saturated fats and cholesterol that is found in meat. This makes vegetarian protein sources such as soy, beans, nuts, peanuts a much better and healthier choice than meat for an energetic and optimum life. Combining vegetarian protein with whole grains such as brown rice, wheat, wheat pasta completes it and the benefits are even greater. Far less chances of cancer and heart disease. It also will provide a more detoxified body and you will not be full of the many germs and toxins that are result of meat passing through the system before it is eliminated. More energy, less illness, lower cholesterol, less chance of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a slimmer, trimmer you. What could be better?
TheProteinReview from Brisbane, Australia on December 28, 2008:
nice layout and pictures, I really like what you have done with this hub :)
Dr Kulsum Mehmood from Nagpur, India on December 10, 2008:
Hi Maddie. I LOVE eggs and whole eggs at that.
leonardrashid on December 08, 2008:
red beans and rice, fish and milk, and halaal meats and chicken!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
brad4l from USA on November 18, 2008:
I tend to eat meat, like chicken and fish, a lot, but I usually have 2 or 3 eggs in the morning too. I usually take a walk/jog in the morning with my dog, so I try to make certain I always eat a breakfast that includes some protein.
Maddie Ruud (author) from Oakland, CA on October 26, 2008:
Thanks for the comment. Considering that fat has the highest number of calories per gram, for many people, cutting fat is an effective way of cutting calories. I, personally, do not think fat is an enemy. I think the best approach to food/weight is one of mindful, balanced eating, with an emphasis on fresh, wholesome ingredients. Historically, popular opinion has swung back and forth between low-fat and low-carb dieting. The human body needs both fat and carbs to function. The key is to choose healthy fats like omega-3's, and healthy carbs like whole grains, as opposed to saturated/animal fats and refined sugars.
Vicariously Yours from Fort Collins, CO on October 26, 2008:
Nice work here, Maddie. I'm an exponent of the low-carb lifestyle and my wife and I have been following Protein Power for several months and feel better now than when we were forty years younger! I note that you have several other hubs dealing with a low-fat approach to nutrition, so I was prepared to encounter some "bad blood" from this hub and the whole subject of protein. To your credit, you presented some great information without coming across as a zealot. And your piece had a lot of good scientific background as well. Good read.
Something to consider: there are many studies coming to light which present a rather shady background to the current low-fat, low-calorie ideology, while carbohydrate restriction seems more and more promising as a permanent lifestyle. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject.
Again, good work.
Sascha H from The Netherlands on October 22, 2008:
Very good information! I prefer casein. Protein powders with casein are excellent for meal replacements or when you want a shake to really fill you up.
betherickson from Minnesota on October 21, 2008:
I love protein. Hope you could make a protein shake recipe. :)
enlightenedpsych2 from n.e. portion of U.S. on Planet earth on October 07, 2008:
This is very good but Whey and Soy are also very good at raising levels of estrogen and in those of us that are estrogen-dominant AND sufferers of ovarian cysts (huge link between two, mine burst in 2006 and I 've crusaded and researched on it ever since), we can't utilize those protein sources affectively.
sharing the light,
Miss Erica Hidvegi
funwithtrains from USA on September 22, 2008:
Great hub -- I had heard that whey protein was good for building muscle, but didn't know where it came from.
GARCIA8287 on September 12, 2008:
I am hypoglycemic, this is a very helpful article for me. Thank you.
Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on September 12, 2008:
Loved all the info in this hub! My boyfriend is trying to build muscle tone, and needs to take in more protein, but can't eat anything with whey, and now I have some more options to try on him!
ryanenglish on September 10, 2008:
I prefer eating egg for protein. Thanks for great hub
C.S.Alexis from NW Indiana on September 09, 2008:
Good that you included details on the many forms of protein. I like the poll too, makes this hub fun and now I am curious to see the outcome. C.S.
hattoss from United States on September 09, 2008:
Thanks! great hub for protein maniac like me.
Fat Into The Fire from http://www.fatintothefire.com on September 08, 2008:
02SmithA from Ohio on September 07, 2008:
I have to admit that meat is my favorite source of protein. Nice hub!
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on September 07, 2008:
Eggs have had a bad rap for too long-- and beef is a huge source of zinc which is very beneficial to the immune system. Though I am eating more vegetables and whole grains these days, extremes are not good.
I'm going to eat some chocolate right now.
Earth Angel on September 07, 2008:
GREAT Hub Maddie!!
I am delighted to see Soy up there with meat and fish!!
Blessings always, Earth Angel!
Lela Davidson from Bentonville, Arkansas on September 07, 2008:
Hey Maddie, I really like the poll! I'm going to incorporate some of those! Thanks, Lela
starrkissed from Arizona on September 06, 2008: