Protein is one of the most important nutrients you need every day. It keeps your bones, hair, blood and tissues growing and working. It also fills you up and gives you energy.
When adding more protein to your diet, there's no need to overdo your meat intake. You also don't have to buy pricey protein shakes. There are plenty of other ways to get more protein.
- Eating less protein helps you lose weight: Cutting down on protein can make it more difficult to lose weight. Protein fills you up and boosts your metabolism. When you cut protein out, you might also reduce your body muscle.
- You can never have too much protein: Actually, you can. If you do have too much protein, you may become dehydrated, gain weight and strain your kidneys.
- Vegetarians don't eat enough protein: Plant foods have smaller amounts of protein in them than animal foods. However, there are plenty of satisfying non-meat proteins to eat.
- Eat more protein or you'll be protein deficient: This myth is false, because most foods have some protein. Protein deficiency is rarely found in developed countries.
Your protein needs
There are different recommendations for how much protein you need to eat every day. The formula usually is 0.36 or 0.37 grams per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd need to eat around 55 grams of protein every day.
Other more general recommendations include:
- The average sedentary man should eat 56 grams of protein per day.
- The average sedentary woman should eat 46 grams of protein a day.
If you're trying to lose weight, experts suggest increasing your grams of protein a day to about 150 grams if you're on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Alternative protein sources
There are plenty of delicious protein-rich alternatives to meat. Some of them may surprise you. Protein alternatives are healthy, especially if you're hoping to follow a more plant-based diet.
Experiment to see which meat-free proteins fill you up. All it takes is a small handful or serving to feel the benefits of these 9 protein-rich foods:
- Asparagus: 2.9g per 1 cup
- Chickpeas: 15g per 1 cup
- Cottage cheese: 28g per 1 cup
- Edamame: 22g per 1 cup shelled
- Egg whites: 26g per 1 cup
- Nut butters: 7g per 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter and almond butter
- Parmesan cheese: 10g per 1 ounce
- Sweet potatoes: 4g per 1 cup
- Wild rice: 23.6g per 1 cup raw
Want more healthy eating tips? Learn more about planning for healthy eating.