How to Increase Protein in Your Diet

protein foods
protein foods
Protein is a life giving food. If we don’t eat protein, we die. If we don’t eat enough protein, we will not thrive. If we don’t eat complete proteins, we will wither and fail. Getting enough of the right kind of protein in our diet is essential to health, growth and vigor.

Increasing protein in your diet is as simple as 1) concentrating upon animal proteins and 2) making sure you have protein at every meal or snack.

When to increase protein in the diet

People who are struggling to make ends meet, and who have to choose between food and rent, tend to rely on carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, bread and potatoes, to feed the family. For these families, getting an adequate amount of complete proteins in the diet, to prevent developmental diseases in their children, requires knowledge of the difference between complete and incomplete proteins and the art of food combining.

Vegetarians, who do not eat any animal foods struggle to get adequate amounts of complete proteins.

Increasing protein in the diet is not that much of a problem for meat eaters with adequate financial resources. For those living in an affluent society, finances and an understanding of which foods are rich in protein, are the only limits to ensuring adequate and complete proteins in the diet.

What is a complete protein?

Proteins convert into amino acids during digestion. Complete proteins contain nine amino acids found primarily in animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt. Of all the plant sources (carbohydrates), only soybeans are a complete protein. (See the National Institutes of Health guidelines on “complete proteins.”)

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Incomplete proteins (those missing at least one amino acid) include nuts, beans, peas and grains. Chronically missing one or more amino acids in the daily diet can lead to severe malnutrition, bone defects and even mental retardation in children. (On-line resources for combining incomplete proteins are available.)

There are diet books that list protein-rich foods and there are a number of on-line resources to determine the protein content of foods.

Increasing protein in your diet

To increase protein in your diet, focus on complete proteins from animal or soy products, or combine incomplete proteins. For example, the combination of beans and rice creates a complete protein in the absence of meat. In other words, combine a legume with a grain.

At least 30% of the calories in your diet should be proteins. If you are on a 1500-calorie weight loss diet, that would be approximately 450 protein calories. (All calories and gram counts are from Diet Power.)

Proteins in animal sources

The best sources for complete proteins are animals and animal products. One ounce of meat ranges from five to 8 grams of protein, depending upon the fat content. The calorie count for one ounce of meat ranges from 29 for fish, to 80 calories for beef. A three-ounce portion, therefore, would range from 89 calories for raw Abalone, which is very low in fat, to 229 calories for Top Sirloin, broiled, with ¼ inch of fat. An 8-ounce sirloin steak would be 610 calories containing 62 grams of protein and 37 grams of fat.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein. One medium sized chicken egg contains 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat for 62 calories. For those trying to cut down on their fat intake, one-quarter cup of Egg Beaters, which are predominantly egg whites, contains 6 grams of protein and no fat.

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Milk is rich in protein. One cup of whole, pasteurized cow’s milk (a little over 8 ounces) contains 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat and 11 grams of carbohydrate. One percent milk has the same carbohydrate and protein count with only 2 grams of fat.

One half cup of 2% cottage cheese contains 15 grams of protein, two grams of fat, and four grams of carbohydrate for 101 calories.

One half cup of plain yogurt, made from whole milk, contains 124 calories: 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat and almost 17 grams of carbohydrate. Plain cottage cheese is a better protein bargain than yogurt.

Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, contain 9 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein in one ounce with almost no carbohydrates.

No protein source is fat free, including soybeans. One half cup of cooked soybeans contains almost 8 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbohydrate and 14 grams of protein.

To increase protein in your diet, ensure you are eating at least 30% of your calories as protein in every meal and snack. Only your creativity, your finances and eating preferences limit getting enough complete protein in your diet.

Eat adequate amounts of complete proteins daily. You will find your energy level will increase, you will look and feel healthier and you will watch your children grow and develop as healthy and vigorous people.

Drs Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Protein Power and Protein Power Life Plan
Complete proteins: