Top 5 Protein Packed Foods
Protein powders line the shelves as the fitness wave continues to flood the high street. We've become fixated by our health and the fitness market is booming, with supplements and shakes to line your cabinets and promote lean muscle growth when combined with exercise and a healthy diet.
But a healthy diet is key to the whole operation. The protein shakes and push-ups are a definite aide but what you consume is key. Protein is contained within many affordable and versatile foods and eaten within a nutritionally balanced diet, can provide the support necessary for extensive exercise and sustained weight loss as well as endless other added extras.
Why Do We Need Protein In Our Diet?
Put simply, we need protein in our diet to sustain almost every single bodily function we perform; consciously or unconsciously. From building and repairing muscle tissue to bone and blood maintenance and health, protein is a vital part of your diet.
Protein is especially important in terms of a healthy metabolism, as the enzymes concerned in triggering chemical actions within the body are created and synthesised by proteins, however despite the fitness flurry hitting the shelves, the only true way to build visible muscle is through old school exercise.
It's important to maintain a varied diet so be sure to include a variety of protein providers in your weekly shop - don't stick with red meat or overload your shopping basket without grains and veg. The below list is a starting point and what I consider to be the top 5 protein packed foods.
Benefits Of Protein
- promotes bone health
- increased recovery from injury
- healthy skin, hair and nails
- promotes healthy metabolism
- promotes lean muscle growth
- healthy immune system
- improved energy levels
- promotes eye health
Often dubbed the most nutritious food in the world, eggs are an obvious choice in the line up for top protein packed foods. Although small, they're mighty, containing all 9 essential amino acids (acids we need to obtain from our diets as our bodies don't synthesis them naturally) providing 6g of protein per egg. Although both the white and yolk of an egg contain rich nutrients, over half of an egg's protein is stored in the white.
Being such a versatile food, eggs supply a wealth of tasty and nutritionally rich meals; eggs for breakfast, omelettes for lunch and baked eggs at dinner (of course, not all in one day, necessarily!). For a speedy lunch, prepare a basic omelette and pile feta, basil and tomatoes into the middle before folding in half.
Quinoa - pronounced keen-wah - is an unusual suspect in the line up, yet surprisingly comes up trumps providing 8g of protein per cup, almost twice that of rice, as well as essential fibre and vitamin B.
Originally held valuable by the Incas and widely consumed in South America, only recently has quinoa become known as a 'superfood' for it's other qualities such as being wheat free and, like the egg, containing all 9 essential amino acids.
When cooked, quinoa forms small spirals and creates the perfect creamy base whilst maintaining a bite. Try tossed in a salad with rocket, mango, chicken and chopped chilli.
Similar to the egg, you may consider chicken as an obvious contender in terms of being packed full of protein, which it is, but chicken is also valuable within weight maintenance diets and programs due to its being low in calories and fat. By supporting lean muscle growth, the protein in chicken is perfect if you're looking to maintain a healthy weight whilst exercising regularly.
Further health benefits of chicken include promotion of heart, teeth and bone health and nutritious selenium, vital for metabolic performance. Add cold to salads, eat on its own, steamed with greens and potatoes or include within a warming, winter veggie stew.
4. Soy Beans
If you're veggie, you may be concerned in regards to the amount of protein in your diet. Fear not, for soy is the answer you're looking for. Found in tofu, miso and of course, soy milk, soy beans provide the perfect alternative to meat if you're keen on increasing your protein intake within your vegan or vegetarian diet.
Now held as being the most popular legume in the world (although cultivated in China for thousands of years) soy holds equal amounts of protein to a meaty alternative and, as a bonus, is said to lower cholesterol levels whilst animal proteins have been known to raise them...
5. Mixed Nuts and Peanut Butter
Nuts make a great on-the-go snack whilst also providing a crunchy hit of protein and healthy, unsaturated fats.
If you've never made peanut butter, then maybe now is the time to try! Peanuts provide more protein than almonds and cashews, so shell some unsalted peanuts and pour into a blender. Whizz up and don't add any liquid; watch as the blender whirrs and you'll see the oil begin to separate from the nuts, eventually creating creamy peanut butter.
Perfect as a breakfast protein dose, add your newly homemade peanut butter to porridge with banana or just spread on toast!