Proteins are made up of the molecules called amino acids. There are 22 different types of amino acids that our body needs to carry out protein functions. Different combinations of these amino acids make up the different types of proteins.
Protein is typically thought of as poultry, dairy, fish or meat and legumes. However, nearly all foods contain some version of protein. Consuming a wider variety of foods allows the body to have and create all of the 22 essential and non-essential amino acids that our body needs. Together, they are able to repair, heal, process and strengthen connective tissue including, bones, tendons, muscles, collagen, ligaments, and fascia.
What Foods are High in Protein
Animal based Protein: Most of the Animal products that humans eat are the high protein foods. Although unprocessed meat is thought of as a rich source of protein, it is the eggs that prevail as the best source of protein. Eggs have the greatest amount of protein per gram. The protein is also 97% bioavailable. That means that the human body is able to digest and use up to 97% of the protein from eggs. When choosing proteins, be aware that the number of grams written on the label is not necessarily what your body will be absorbing (some foods are only 50-60% bioavailable!).
The next best Foods High in Protein source of protein is fish; it not only is high in protein but is also a rich source of healthy omega-3 fat. White meat such as chicken and turkey comes after fish. It is high in protein and low in fat. Unprocessed lean cut of beef is the best source of protein coming from red meat; it is also rich in iron and vitamin B. All these meat based protein sources are high in useable protein.
Dairy is another great source of protein. Unprocessed Milk itself is quite high in protein, however the milk can be processed further to make very high protein foods such as casein and whey. Both of these proteins are very high in protein and low in calories, therefore are used as supplements. Other processed dairy products such as yogurt and cheese are also high protein foods. Recently strained yogurt also Greek Yogurt has gained a lot of popularity because of its high protein content.
Plant based Protein: Although animal based foods are rich in protein, more and more people in the recent times are deciding to avoid animal based foods due to moral, religious or environmental reasons. For them there are still a lot of plant based protein options. Legumes, which include peas and beans, are high in protein. Peas include foods such as lentils or dal, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, gram etc. While beans include Soybeans, Black beams, Kidney beans, Navy beans etc.
Whole rice, whole or steel cut oats and Quinoa are also good sources of protein. Finally there are the nuts, especially peanuts and almonds, which are a good source of protein. Plant-based proteins mentioned above are not only high protein food but are also a good source of other macronutrients. Legumes and wholes grains are also a good source of low Glycemic index carbohydrates while nuts are a good source of healthy fats.
There has been an opinion in the fitness community that plant based protein is inferior to animal based protein. In our opinion that is not the case as there are a lot of examples of individuals who have strictly followed a plant-based diet and still attained great strength and physique. However keep in mind that the plant-based protein is generally bioavailable only from 50% to about 75-80%. So you might need to adjust your intake accordingly. Also since plant based protein sources are also rich in other macronutrients, while cutting fat, you might need to workout extra hard to burn the excess calories that you have consumed.
How much Protein Should You Eat
The amount of protein that you should eat is dependent on what your goal is. If you are bulking up and trying to gain muscle then protein should make up 25-35% of your total daily calories. If you are trying to maintain weight then again proteins should make up 25-35% of your daily calories. If you are trying to cut fat then protein should constitute 40-50% of your total daily calories.