The great debate rages on. Is plant-derived protein better for you than a slab of steak? There is still no final verdict, but research continues to prove the benefits of both – or either. Meat lovers will defend their diet provides high-quality, or complete, protein; while veggie lovers will proclaim whole-food, plant-based eating is “cleaner” for the body. Luckily, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: protein is essential and should not be excluded from any diet.
Protein is (literally) an essential nutrient, made up of amino acids – the building blocks of our cells. Of the 20 amino acids, nine of them cannot be produced by the body. These are called essential amino acids, and they must be obtained through diet. By consuming protein from complete or incomplete protein sources, the body can adequately make up for what it’s lacking. It’s important to know a complete protein source – such as those from animal products – provides all essential amino acids. Incomplete protein sources provide less than the nine essentials, but consuming multiple incomplete protein sources can together deliver everything you need.
To help you choose which protein source(s) are best for your body, glance at the cheat sheet below. These are some of the best plant and animal sources, with average protein potency shown in grams:
Dark green vegetables
Spinach (1 cup, cooked) = 5 grams
Broccoli (1 cup, cooked) = 4 grams
Asparagus (1 cup, raw) = 3 grams
Quinoa (1 cup, cooked) = 9 grams
Brown Rice (1 cup, cooked) = 5 grams
Whole wheat bread (1 slice) = 3 grams
Lentils (1 cup, cooked) = 18 grams
Black beans (1 cup, cooked) = 15 grams
Soy beans (1 cup, cooked) = 29 grams
Almonds (1/4 cup, raw) = 8 grams
Cashews (1/4 cup, raw) = 5 grams
Peanut butter (2 tbsp) = 8 grams
Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup) = 6 grams
Hemp seeds (3 Tbsp) = 11 grams
Ground (3 oz, 75% lean) = 22 grams
Filet Mignon (3 oz) = 24 grams
Chicken (3.5 oz, skinless breast) = 31 grams
Turkey (3.5 oz, skinless) = 30 grams
Salmon (3 oz, boneless fillet) = 21 grams
Tilapia (3 oz) = 24 grams
Tuna (3-ounce steak) = 25 grams
Yogurt (8 oz, fat-free) = 13 grams
Cheese (1 oz, whole milk mozzarella) = 5 grams
Milk (8 oz, 1% milk fat) = 8 grams
Keep in mind the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. For a 160-pound adult, that’s about 58 grams per day. Depending on your daily caloric needs and health status, your protein consumption may be 15 to 25 percent of your total calories. Whether your dietary choices include vegan, gluten-free, low-carb or other, strive to reach these standards and enjoy whatever protein you put on your plate.
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By: +Elizabeth Lotts writer for Vitacost.com