High Protein Foods
High protein foods play a central role in many diet plans. Just because a meal is high in protein, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is diet food, too. But first of all, let’s see what makes a meal rich in protein: what it should contain and what it should not.
Protein Sources: Animal or Plant-Based?
If you are planning to prepare a high-protein meal, you should opt for animal protein sources in the first place. Of course, there are plant-based protein sources as well, but in itself, no plant-based source boasts as good properties as animal protein sources. This means, their absorption and bioavailability are not so favorable, therefore they are less efficient protein sources for sports purposes.
The reason is that the amino acid profile of plant-based protein sources is not complete. For this reason, you cannot consume all the essential amino acids from one single plant-based source. And this is apparently not beneficial if you wish to gain muscle mass or you just exercise. Because proteins are the building blocks of muscles, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. True: if you combine various plant-based protein sources smartly, you can make the amino acid profile of your meal complete. We will show examples for this later. But if you are not a vegetarian, you should definitely opt for animal protein sources.
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Plants are basically consumed for their carbohydrate and fiber content, not as protein sources. However, the fact that some vegetables have pretty good protein levels should not be overlooked. Such vegetables are legumes including beans, lentils or peas (but remember they contain pretty much carbs, too). And of course, there is soy, which is used in thousands of ways in vegetarian cuisine. And there are chia seeds and quinoa—rich sources of protein, provided that you can afford them.
The plant-based protein sources we consume on a daily basis (as sides, for example) are mostly included in a diet as carbohydrate sources. Even though rice or wholegrain pasta contain some protein, their protein content is negligible, so you don’t need to consider it when counting your daily protein intake. Doing so, it is much more easier to count your macros, too.
Animal Protein Sources
So, the best protein sources are animal sources. Poultry, lean beef, lean pork maybe, fish, eggs and low-fat dairies: these are the basics. If you want to prepare a high-protein meal, you should include at least one of these ingredients. And don’t forget about seafood: they are excellent protein sources if you can afford them, and so are insects. However, I don’t think that there will be a rush after you guys read these lines. But, believe it or not, we have tested them. Locusts, for example, taste pretty good.
Warning: cold cuts are NOT good protein sources. But even if you happen to find a pure ham product or such, a kilo might cost 4 or 5 times more as, say, chicken breast fillet. Think about it: how much do two slices of ham weigh? If you want to consume a reasonable amount of protein, you would need 100 grams or more per meal. Is it worth it?
High Protein Foods—The Bottom Line
Let’s sum it up: What do you need to be aware of, when choosing or preparing your high-protein meal? Make sure it contains a lot of protein, preferably from animal sources. Try to compile your daily intake from as many sources as possible, even if they are all animal sources. Doing so, you can make sure the amino acid profile of your daily protein intake is complete.
Based on the above, the most important high protein foods are the following:
Eggs: scrambled, fried or boiled. Meals with eggs are basically excellent protein sources.
Cooked or fried meat, preferably cooked with little fat.
Cooked or fried fish, preferably cooked with little fat.
Meat or pasta dishes with low-fat cheese
Basically, meat with steamed vegetables, scrambled eggs with wholegrain bakery products, grilled fish with salad etc.
Foods which are NOT rich in protein: pasta without any meat; soups without meat; pottages without meat, eggs or the like; bakery products without cold cuts or with just 1 or 2 slices; sugary bakery products and finally, we have bad news: milk is not a good source of protein either. Should you find a “protein diet” on the internet, with foods like these, you can be sure that you are on the wrong site. Sadly, you can run into such “diet plans” quite often!
High Protein Foods from Plant-Based Sources
If you combine plant-based protein sources smartly, you can prepare meals with complete amino acid profiles. Although these are still not as good as animal sources, they can be an alternative for vegetarians.
The best plant-based sources are quinoa, soy, legumes mixed with rice, buckwheat, hummus, traditional pita, peanut butter sandwich or spirulina mixed with nuts. These are foods with complete or almost complete amino acid profiles. But, as you can see, most of these foods come with some “extras”, except for soy, maybe: because, if you aim for a complete amino acid profile, you will most likely also ingest a considerable amount of carbohydrates with plant-based sources. We strongly recommend that you should at least eat eggs and dairies, unless you avoid them for religious or ideological reasons.
All in all: high protein foods preferably contain plenty of animal protein sources or smartly combined plant-based sources.
And last but not least: you can find literally hundreds of high protein recipes in our Builder Gastro column. Click here!
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