High-Protein Foods

Benefits of Protein & Prioritizing High-Protein Foods

Publish Date April 6, 2022
Author Richie Santucci, RD, CDE, CPT

When talking about protein, we often think exclusively of meat, fish or poultry; however, there are actually many different foods that can serve as a source of protein, including vegetables, legumes, dairy and more. How much protein do all of these foods actually provide – and more importantly, how much do you need to consume? It’s time to do a deep dive on this popular macronutrient!

First, let’s discuss what our body uses protein for:

Protein functions and benefits

  • Repairs and builds muscles
  • Acts as a fuel source when burned for energy
  • Supports hair, skin and nails (as collagen)
  • Supports development of hormones that regulate our body daily
  • Forms enzymes which then digest our food (Fun Fact: Did you know without enzymes, digesting our food would take years?)

Factors that affect protein needs

Individual protein needs can vary based on a few factors ranging from physical activity, injuries or wounds, to age or chronic conditions. The general requirement for adults is 0.8 to 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Let’s take a closer look at each fact that can affect your personalized protein requirements:

  • Age: Your protein needs change as you move through the lifecycle, and your body experiences life-stage changes.
  • Strength training: Strength training requires extra protein to help rebuild muscle fibers, which thus promotes strength and/or size, depending on your goals.
  • Endurance training: Protein requirements will increase during endurance training, due to the increased need in overall calories to sustain extended periods of physical activity.
  • Overall physical activity: The more active you are, the more protein and energy you will need to support this physical activity.
  • Kidney status: Those with kidney disease often have to restrict protein to preserve kidney function, while those in dialysis may have to increase protein intake to counteract the losses due to dialysis.
  • Weight management: Protein can play a part in overall satiety and balancing of blood sugar.
  • Quality of protein: Meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs are what we call complete proteins, meaning they have all the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. There are complete sources of protein that are plant based, including whole sources of soy (like edamame), quinoa, hempseed, and buckwheat. When choosing other plant-based protein, it’s helpful to use complementary proteins, which harnesses 2 different plant-based proteins to provide all of your essential amino acids. With complementary protein pairings, 1 food will contain the essential amino acid that the other is missing, and vice versa. For example, rice and beans or peas and lentils are a few complementary protein pairs.

Protein Dense Foods

Interested in knowing what foods provide a punch in protein? Protein is measured in grams [g]. Here are some options, both animal and plant-based with their corresponding protein amounts.

  • Steak, 3 oz. lean sirloin steak, broiled: 26g
  • Pork, 3 oz. lean pork chop, broiled: 26g
  • Chicken, 3 oz. breast, roasted: 19g
  • Salmon, 3 oz. filet, baked or broiled: 23g
  • Greek yogurt, 1 cup plain nonfat: 18 grams
  • Pumpkin seeds, 1 oz., kernels (about 140 seeds): 9g
  • Skim Milk, 8 oz: 8 g
  • Kidney beans, 3 oz., cooked: 7g
  • Pinto beans, 1/2 cup cooked: 7g
  • Almonds, 1 oz. (about 24 nuts): 6g
  • Black beans, 1/2 cup cooked: 6g
  • Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup, kernels: 6g
  • Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked: 5g
  • Collards, 1 cup, cooked: 5g
  • Asparagus: 1 cup, cooked: 5g
  • Brussels sprouts, 1 cup, cooked: 4g
  • Broccoli, 1 cup, raw: 3g

If you eat a variety of different foods and food groups, then you’re most likely consuming enough protein. Aim for filling approximately a fourth of your plate with protein-rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, dairy, beans, peas and lentils

If you’re just starting to increase your protein consumption, take small steps. Good changes aren’t made overnight. If you are looking for additional support and nutrition assistance, schedule a telenutrition appointment with a Kroger Registered Dietitian today by visiting www.kroger.com/dietitian.

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

References: https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Data/hg72/hg72_2002.pdf, https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/19-high-protein-vegetables#19.-Avocado

Protein-Rich Meal & Snack Ideas

Need some recipe inspiration? Here are some delicious protein rich-meals and snacks to incorporate in your meal prep this week.

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