To be healthy, the human body needs a healthy diet including sources of protein.
What is called "protein" is actually made up of a large class of molecules. These structure and support cells and are necessary for immune function, movement, chemical reactions, hormone synthesis, etc.
Proteins are all made up of tiny building blocks called amino acids. And only 9 of them are considered essential, which means your body needs them, but can't make them on its own. You must therefore absolutely integrate them into your diet for the proper functioning of physiological processes.
The amount of protein you should consume each day depends on factors such as:
- muscle size
- Activity levels
- Pregnancy period
Some people need more protein than others. However, it is important for everyone to get optimal amounts by eating protein-rich foods regularly.
Not only is protein essential for your health, but it is also the most nourishing macronutrient. Consuming it can leave you feeling full and satisfied, which promotes a healthy body weight.
Table of Contents
- Protein requirements
- What are complete proteins?
- Best sources of vegetable protein
- Best Sources of Animal Protein
- Consume as much vegetable protein as possible
- Protein Sources – Conclusion
- FAQ - Answers to common questions
In the United States, the National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults consume at least 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or 8 grams for every 10 kilograms of body weight. These figures are also confirmed on the Vidal France website.
For a 70 kg person, this represents about 56 g of protein per day, or 80 g for a 100 kg person. But you have to keep in mind that this is a minimum required for a sedentary person. These needs are higher for an active or athletic person.
The US National Academy of Medicine also establishes a wide range of acceptable protein intakes, ranging from 10 % to 35 % of daily calories. Beyond that, there is relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest goal for the calories provided by protein.
In a Harvard analysis of more than 130,000 men and women followed for up to 32 years, the percentage of calories from total protein intake was not related to overall mortality or specific causes of death. . However, the protein source was important.
It is important to note that millions of people around the world, especially young children, do not consume enough protein due to food insecurity. The effects of protein deficiency and malnutrition vary in severity, from stunted growth and loss of muscle mass to decreased immunity, weakened heart and respiratory system, and even to death.
However, it is rare for healthy adults in most developed countries to have a deficiency, as there is an abundance of protein-rich plant and animal foods. In fact, a large part of the population consumes a lot of protein of animal origin, but not necessarily of the best quality.
What are complete proteins?
Proteins, whether derived from plant or animal foods, likely have similar health effects, although the mix of amino acids may have health implications.
Some proteins found in food contain the 22 types of amino acids needed to make new proteins in the body. However, your body knows how to make 13 of them. But there are 9 that you absolutely must find in the diet.
Complete proteins are those which contain at least these 9 essential amino acids :
Foods of animal origin (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products) tend to be good sources of complete protein, while foods of plant origin (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) are often lacking in one or more essential amino acids.
Those who abstain from eating foods of animal origin can eat a variety of plant foods containing proteins in order to obtain all the amino acids necessary for the manufacture of new proteins. They may also choose to incorporate vegetable proteins whole foods like quinoa and chia seeds.
Best sources of vegetable protein
To avoid any dietary imbalance and health problems, a vegan diet also needs foods rich in complete proteins. Of course, it's even easier on a vegetarian diet when you eat dairy or eggs.
How to find essential amino acids with plants?
In fact, the variety of plants, roots and germs containing complete or incomplete proteins is impressive. It is quite possible to find your account by being attentive.
Protein foods that do not contain all of the essential amino acids may be associated with other containing those they lack. The best way to do this is to combine grains with legumes in your meals.
Here are some examples of common associations:
- Rice and soy
- Rice and lentils
- Rice and white or red beans
- Corn and kidney beans
- Cereal products (pasta, semolina, bread, etc.) and chickpeas
- Wholemeal bread and peanut butter
- Wholemeal bread and hummus
- Lentil soup with wholemeal bread
- Rolled oats and nuts
As you can see, there are even some interesting combinations for a high protein breakfast.
Plants containing complete proteins
There are indeed sources of vegetable proteins complete that you can consume on their own to get the right amino acid profile. Here is a small list of the foods concerned:
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Tempeh, tofu and edamame (made from soybeans)
- Amaranth seeds
In addition, you can also consume organic Ezekiel bread made from sprouted grains and legumes. Unless, of course, if you are gluten intolerant…
Vegetable protein powder
Some powders contain protein from multiple sources. For example, a vegan option might include protein derived from peas, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, hemp, rice, or alfalfa.
If you choose to consume protein powder, it is important to read the nutrition labels and the list of ingredients. Indeed, some of them contain unexpected ingredients and added sugars.
For example, you can choose the website from the Nutridiscount store vegetable protein powder without additives. The advantage of plain pea protein, for example, is that it can be easily mixed with a hot drink such as coffee or vegetable milk.
Best Sources of Animal Protein
Proteins of animal origin enter the diet of many humans on earth. Even though more and more people are adopting a vegan diet in industrialized countries, many countries cannot offer a viable alternative to the dietary needs of their population.
This is the case in many African countries where the main sources of protein are eggs and fish. When I lived in Benin, people often only had an egg or a small piece of fish to meet their needs.
Whole eggs are among the most nutritious foods available. A 50 gram egg provides 6.3 grams of protein.
They are one good source of protein easy to absorb. They are also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants.
For example, whole eggs are packed with selenium and vitamins B12 and A. They're also rich in choline, an especially important nutrient during pregnancy and breastfeeding because it plays an essential role in growth and development.
Keep in mind that egg whites are nearly pure protein. The yolk provides many more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
If you're concerned about the cholesterol in egg yolks, it's important to note that plenty of research has disproved the idea that they're bad for you. On the contrary, studies have shown that whole eggs are incredibly healthy for most people.
Cow's milk contains a little of almost every nutrient your body needs. It is a good source of high quality protein. In addition, it is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin (vitamin B2). A quarter liter of cow's milk contains 8.5 g of protein.
There is however 3 major problems with the consumption of cow's milk:
- Many people with lactose intolerance avoid foods containing dairy products.
- Industrialization has corrupted the quality of milk. Studies have shown that lactose intolerant people consume raw, unprocessed milk without a problem. Amazing!
- Dairy cows are fed antibiotics that end up in products sold on the market.
Among the dairy products richest in protein are cream cheese (124 g of protein per kilo) and Greek yogurt (100 g of protein per kilo). Lean white cheese contains a little less with 80 g per kilo.
We rarely talk about sports nutrition in bodybuilding without addressing this subject. Made from whey, this food supplement is commonly called powder whey protein (Anglicism).
For bodybuilding or CrossFit practitioners, it is difficult to consume enough protein in their diet. Powdered supplements are therefore a simple way to boost your intake without having to eat 5 or 6 meals a day. As you can see on Nutridiscount there is a large selection of whey protein powder.
Take the time to look at the sugar and salt levels to make the right choices.
It is not the one most found in stores in France or Canada, and yet 65 % of the world's population consume it.
At equal quantity, goat's milk far outranks cow's milk, in particular with regard to proteins (9 g against 8 g) and calcium (330 g against 275 to 300 g).
A NCBI study (in English) also suggests that goat's milk may improve the body's ability to absorb important nutrients from other foods. In contrast, cow's milk is known to interfere with the absorption of key minerals like iron and copper when consumed in the same meal.
Another reason why some people choose goat's milk over cow's milk has to do with the digestibility. All animal milks contain lactose (natural milk sugar), which some people, as they age, lose the ability to fully digest.
But goat's milk contains about 12 % less lactose than cow's milk. It is even lower in lactose when made into yogurt. People with mild lactose intolerance may therefore find that dairy products made from goat's milk are less upsetting to their digestion than cow's milk.
In terms of digestive health, goat's milk has another advantage over cow's milk: a greater concentration of prebiotic carbohydrates, favorable to the development of beneficial bacteria living in the intestinal ecosystem.
These carbohydrates are called oligosaccharides. This is the same type of carbohydrate found in human breast milk.
Meat has always been considered an important source of protein. But they do not all have the same nutritional value and not the same effects on the body and on the planet.
Those to be preferred
White meats such as chicken or turkey breast are by far the healthiest. According to various studies, their production is also the least impactful for the environment.
Their main weakness is that they are low in iron, unlike red meat. But they are very skinny and contain vitamin B2, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.
Meats to limit or avoid
Red meat, which includes unprocessed beef, pork, lamb, veal and mutton, should be eaten moderately. If you like red meat, consider consuming it in small quantities or only on special occasions.
Processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages and deli meats should be avoided. Although these products are often made from red meats, processed meats also include hams or chicken or turkey sausages.
Processed meat refers to any meat that has been processed by salting, pickling, fermenting, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.
All types of fish are high in protein. For example, 200g of salmon (125g) contains 50g of protein, while 200g of cod fillet provides 46g.
Fish is not only an excellent source of protein. It also provides a number of important vitamins and minerals, such as iodine, selenium and vitamin B12.
People who include lots of fish in their diet tend to have a lower risk of health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, fatty fish such as salmon and herring are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which promote good heart health, among other things.
Consume as much vegetable protein as possible
Get your protein from plants when possible. Eating legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds and other sources of vegetable proteins is a victory for your health and that of the planet.
If most of your protein comes from plants, be sure to mix your sources so that no essential protein component is missing. The good news is that the plant kingdom offers plenty of options to mix and match.
Although many vegetables and fruits contain some protein, it is generally in smaller amounts than the other foods listed above.
Beware of vegan industrial products
Also, beware of special processed foods for vegans that are meant to mimic animal foods. In my opinion, it is absurd to want to eat something just because it looks like meat and cheese.
Be aware that these ultra-processed products are more harmful to your health than the foods they imitate…
Protein Sources – Conclusion
Using protein in your daily meals is essential for your health.
Protein needs vary from individual to individual. However, experts recommend that most active people consume a minimum of 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and ideally between 1.2 to 2 g per day depending on your activity level.
Luckily, there are plenty of protein-rich foods to choose from, whether from animal or plant sources. However, not every form of protein is good for your health. Choose the healthiest as much as possible.
Try this today: Add a protein source to every meal and snack to ensure your food is as filling as possible. Not only will this help you meet your protein needs, but it will keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.
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FAQ - Answers to common questions
Which plant contains the most protein?
The answer you will find almost everywhere is spirulina. It is true that this seaweed is impressive because it contains 60 to 75 % of this macronutrient. The problem is that it is very expensive and it is not possible to eat it in large quantities. In my opinion, it is better to consider it as a dietary supplement.
As for commonly consumed foods to include in your dishes, quinoa and amaranth are undoubtedly the most interesting with 5 g of complete proteins per 100 g.
As for incomplete proteins, nuts contain 15 g per 100 g and lentils 9 g per 100 g. They are therefore super foods to pair with rice or another cereal.
What about high protein diets?
Eating a large amount of this macronutrient in a unbalanced protein diet may not be the best choice for your long-term health. It is a good option to lose weight quickly if this imbalance does not last too long.
But for it to function properly, your body needs a sufficient supply of each macronutrient. If you are athletic, favor a distribution of around 35 % of proteins, 25 % of lipids and 40 % of good quality carbohydrates.
Which dairy product contains the most protein?
Of course, it is whey protein that contains the most, often over 80 %.
But if we leave aside food supplements, hard cheeses are particularly rich in protein. The record is held by parmesan which contains 39.4 g/100 g.
What is the most protein meat?
The protein content varies depending on the piece of meat. But it is generally the pork that contains the most, especially the pork cutlet with 36 grams of protein per 100 g of meat. For their part, the shoulder and the slice of ham contain about 30 g of protein per 100 g.
That being said, many meats exceed 30g of protein per 100g. This is for example the case of beef, lamb, rabbit or chicken.
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Related words: macro essential nutrients assimilation of food molecules amino acid chains