Everything You Need to Know About Protein Rich Foods

The foods we eat contain different proteins made up of various amino acidsThe foods we eat contain different proteins made up of various amino acids

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What Is High-Protein Food and How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

Everyone has heard about the importance of protein and various high-protein diets, but very few of us really know everything about this nutrient. In this article we will provide full information on one of the major components of any living being. Besides, you will learn about the best food sources of protein, and the ways to maximize its benefits.

Why are proteins so important for us? We often hear in the mass media about amino acids which are actually the building blocks of proteins. But they seldom notice that it is the protein intake that enables us to consume the daily rate of these amino acids which are responsible for the accelerated cell regeneration, the muscle mass growth, the strength and appearance of our fingernails, hair, and facial skin.

It turns out that protein is important not only for our internal organs, but also for our appearance.

What happens if there is insufficient protein in your diet? First and foremost, the proponents of vegetable and fruit diets are familiar with the consequences. They really quickly lose their weight, but it does not take long to see the results: the muscle tone is disappearing, the shapes and skin are sagging and the lost kilograms are no longer so pleasing to the eye.

Proteins scheme

Why is this happening? The foods you eat provide your body with the proteins it needs to function. In particular, the body regularly needs amino acids which make connective tissues elastic. When you do not intake enough dietary protein, your body starts to compensate for this deficiency by breaking down protein found in your muscles. Therefore, they are the first to suffer.

However, overconsumption of high-protein foods can adversely affect your body.

How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?

A daily dose of a half-gram of pure protein per 1 kg of body weight is recommended. For people going in for sports, protein needs might increase two-three times.

What are the Kinds of Protein?

Considering proteins in both proper and sports nutrition, they can be classified according to their source, structure and absorption rate.

Animal and Plant Proteins

  • Animal-based proteins are found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, cheese, honey, eggs, and dairy foods.
  • The sources of plant proteins are the following foods: soy, nuts, cereals & pulses, vegetables, fruit & dried fruit.

If you want to maintain your muscle mass, or have good health, beautiful hair and fingernails, your daily diet should contain proteins of both groups in a ratio of 50% each. If your goal is to build up your muscles, you should consume 80% of animal and 20% of plant proteins. For example, you can combine eggs & potatoes (wheat, beans, or corn), milk & corn, cereals & soy.

Complete, Incomplete, and Complementary Proteins

Proteins vary in their chemical composition. There are 24 different amino acids within a protein structure which are all necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. Nine of them must be obtained through dietary means because our body cannot produce them on its own.

  • Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids. An egg white is an excellent source of dietary protein. All animal products and some plants are rich in protein (cereal germs, almonds, soybeans, and buckwheat groats).
  • Incomplete proteins either lack some amino acid, or its quantity is insignificant. These are plant-based proteins which cannot fully meet the needs of our body for amino acids.
  • Complementary proteins are produced as a result of proper combination of proteins in the diet. This can be done by combining the food containing incomplete proteins with another food that is rich in the amino acids the first food is missing.

The examples of such mutually beneficial complement are: peanuts and pistachios, a peanut butter sandwich on the whole wheat bread, rice with green peas, lentil with lettuce wraps and sesame seeds, etc. Complementary proteins can be included in different meals during the day.

Fast and Slow-Digesting Proteins

  • "Fast" proteins are called so because they are quickly absorbed by the body (per 1–1.5 hours). This feature is invaluable for the athletes, both amateurs and professionals. Using fast-absorbing proteins lets you feel the second wind and helps increase your muscle mass.
  • "Slow" proteins are digested slowly (6–8 hours), which keeps you feeling full for long. Bodybuilders take this kind of protein before bedtime. Skim cheese is the best source of slow-digesting proteins (70% of casein).

For example, an egg white can be used by athletes as a dope one hour before training, to build the muscle mass. After a workout your body needs the proper fuels to help muscles recover and repair. Yogurt is a good post-workout snack. For graceful body (without the purpose to build muscles) you should eat high-protein food 5 hours prior to your training, and only a couple of hours after it. To get the maximum benefit from the high-protein diet, you should select low-fat foods, cook them properly, and shred them with the help of a blender.

Slow-digesting proteins help prevent the weight gain even at the evening meal (2–3 hours before bed). During nighttime, the body digests the food and enriches your muscles with all the essential amino acids, and at the same time it prevents you from reaching the huge muscle mass.

The table of fast-digesting proteins providing indicators of their absorption:

Foods

Digestion rates

Cheese

1,0

Pink salmon

0,90

Chicken

0,92

Beef

0,92

Pork

0,63

Eggs

1,0

Milk, kefir

1,0

The table of slow-digesting proteins providing indicators of their absorption:

Foods

Protein content

Digestion rate

Soy

35

0,91

Peanuts

26

0,52

Green peas

23

0,67

Navy beans

22

0,68

Cottage cheese

17

0,66

Buckwheat groats

13

1,0

Wheat

13

0,54

Oats

12

0,57

Rye

11

0,63

Corn

8

0,60

Rice

7

0,55

Fibrous Proteins

These proteins compose our muscles (myosin), cartilages, connective tissues (collagen), blood vessels, tendons, ligaments (elastin), skin, fingernails, and hair (keratin), etc., making them elastic and strong. Fibrous proteins are found in animals, especially in the cartilaginous tissue.

Each group of proteins plays an important role in the improvement of our body. A proper healthy diet helps create a flawless figure, avoid injuries, and remain attractive for ages.

The Best High-Protein Foods

Not all foods containing protein can be useful. The problem is that almost all products comprising a large amount of protein contain also fat which is not very useful, because it prevents normal absorption of proteins themselves.

Eggs contain one of the most valuable proteins, therefore, they are so popular in athletic dietsEggs contain one of the most valuable proteins, therefore, they are so popular in athletic diets

Egg protein is the easiest to absorb by our bodies. Eggs have a low fat content, and their protein is quickly digestible.

But egg yolks are rich in cholesterol, therefore, it is not recommended to eat more than 1–2 eggs a day. However, if you train, you may eat more eggs, but do not increase the number of yolks consumed. Just separate egg whites and eat them only.

The second place in usefulness justly goes to the meat. The best is fat-free beef, or chicken, either steamed, or grilled. One hundred grams of fillet contain 28–30 grams of pure protein. Besides, such food satiates you faster and makes you eat less. It should be combined with light garnishes and vegetable salads containing gluten.

Oatmeal is also one of the best sources of "slow" proteins. Since childhood we all know that this porridge is very useful. It is low in fat and calories, but rich in proteins and carbohydrates.

List of Foods Ranked by Protein Content

The following chart is provided at the rate of 100 grams of product/grams of protein:

Meat Seafood Plant-based food Dairy and other products
Veal, boiled 30,7 Red caviar 31,6 White wheat bread 8,1 Cheese, low-fat 25-30
Chicken, fried 26,3 Black caviar 28,6 Whole rye-wheat bread 7 Dutch cheese 26
Turkey, fried 26,2 Pollock roe 28,4 Rye bread 6,5 Egg, boiled (1 pc) 25
Beef, boiled 25,8 Cod 26 Apricots, dried 5,2 Processed cheese 22
Turkey, boiled 25,3 Mackerel 23,4 Peas, green 5 Cottage cheese, low-fat 18
Chicken, boiled 25,2 Pink salmon 22,9 Mushrooms, fresh 4,3 Feta cheese 17,9
Rabbit, cooked 24,6 Pike-perch 21,3 Ceps, fresh 3,7 Yogurt, 1.5% 5
Cervelat sausage 24 Pike 21,3 Herbs (parsley, dill, lettuce, sorrel) 1,5-3,7 Kefir, nonfat 4,3
Lamb skewer 22,9 Perch 19,9 Pea soup 3,4 Milk, nonfat 3
Beef liver, fried 22,8 Crabs 18,7 Cauliflower 3,1 Milk, 3.2% 2,8
Pork, boiled 22,6 Hake 18,5 Green peas 3,1 Kefir, fat 2,8
Duck, roasted 22,6 Flounder 18,3 Dates 2,5
Ham 22,6 Squid, fillet 18 Potatoes, boiled 2,4
Lamb, boiled 22 Sardines in oil 17,9 Milled rice, boiled 2,1
Pork, fried 20 Shrimps 17,8 Dried plums 2,3
Lamb chop 20 Herring 17,5 Brown rice, boiled 2,2
Duck, boiled 19,7 Cod liver 4,2 Apples 2,2
Liver paste 18                                        Onion 2
Tinned meat, various 15 Cabbage, stewed 2
Beef rissoles 14,6 Squash spread 2
Meat dumplings, 4 pcs 14,5 Cabbage 1,8
Beef, stewed 14,3 Sour cabbage 1,8
Chicken leg 14,3 Raisins 1,8
Pork schnitzel, minced 13,5 Eggplant spread 1,7
Baloney 12,8 Turnip 1,5
Beef sausages 11,4 Bananas 1,5
Liver, stewed 11 Sweet pepper 1,3
Pork sausages 10,1 Radish 1,2
    Green beans 1,2
  Cherries 1,1
Zucchini, fried 1,1
Tomatoes 1,1
Blackcurrant 1
Soup, vegetarian 1
Tomato juice 1
Honey, natural 0,8

High-Protein Diet for Weight Loss

Follow the recommendations provided in this section to help your body absorb the maximum amount of proteinsFollow the recommendations provided in this section to help your body absorb the maximum amount of proteins

Why are High-Protein Diets So Popular? 

As mentioned above, protein provides us with strength and satiety which allows reducing the consumption of carbohydrates. At their deficiency the body starts to produce energy from its stores in the form of proteins and fats.

Also, the body spends a lot of energy on the absorption of proteins, thus burning the excess fat.  If you decided to try this diet, you should observe the following rules:

  • You should eat small meals throughout the day (5–6 times).
  • You cannot get only proteins from food. Add salads and vegetables to each meal.
  • Before lunch consume complex carbohydrates, after 3–4 p.m. you should better eat light foods, such as boiled fish, or fillet.
  • Your main courses should mostly consist of 100–200 grams of chicken breast, fish, boiled beef, or seafood. Combine them with salads and green vegetables.
  • All foods you eat must be boiled, steamed, or grilled.
  • You are not allowed to use any dressings, except for soy and lemon sauces.

As you can see, this diet is not too strict. From time to time (every two weeks) you can treat yourself to your favorite dish or dessert.

What Does Excess Protein Do to Your Body?

If the amount of protein in the diet is slightly exceeded, its excess serves as an energy and activity accumulator. However, taking in more protein than your body can absorb, especially over a long period of time, can have negative consequences. First of all, it may lead to liver function disorder, because of intensive amino acids exchange. Besides, too much protein can cause kidney stones.

The breakdown and absorption of proteins requires quite a lot of vitamins, therefore, there is a risk of vitamin deficiency. The body needs 1 mg of ascorbic acid to break down 1 g of protein; at its lack, only the amount of protein for which there is enough vitamin C, can be absorbed.

The rest of the protein which was not broken down is acidified by the body: it leaches calcium from bones and makes them brittle; it also changes the blood count and causes allergic reactions; it is deposited in the blood vessels, thus provoking atherosclerosis; it negatively influences the water exchange, appearing in the form of edemas. In case of gouty diathesis, which affects the joins and kidneys, this disease can progress.

Shalukhin Alexander
Shalukhin Alexander
Personal trainer, sports doctor, physical therapist
  • Builds individualized exercise programs and leads personal training sessions;
  • Specializes in sports traumatology and physiotherapy;
  • Provides classic therapeutic and sports massage sessions;
  • Conducts research studies on new exercise and recovery techniques;
  • Chief website editor. Writes articles on sports injuries and sports supplements reviews.

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