Protein is an important building block of a healthy diet. It builds and maintains muscle and bone and keeps cells in good working order. How much protein you need depends on several things including age and activity level. To ensure you get enough, take your weight and multiply it by 0.6, the number for women who exercise. An active 130-pound woman needs about 78 grams a day. Jazzercise Founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett says there are many ways to get high-quality protein into your diet.
Beans and Grains
One cup of legumes or beans such as raw peanuts (37g), soybeans (29g), or lentils (15g) as well as whole grains such as amaranth (28g), oats (26g) and quinoa (22g) are not only a rich source of low-fat protein, but high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Nuts and Seeds
Pumpkin (10g), sunflower (8.5g) or sesame seeds (6g) as wells as almonds (6g), cashews (6g) and pistachios (6g) contain the most protein per serving (1/4 cup) as well as essential omega 3 fatty acids, which are a healthier alternative to saturated fat.
Fish and Shellfish
Three ounces of bluefish (105g), nine large clams (23g) and a can of light tuna in water (42g) pack the biggest protein punch. Although three ounces of halibut (17g), salmon (17g) or mackerel (15g) don’t contain as much protein, they are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets are nutritionally adequate for all stages of life and athletics. Vegetables are low in fat and rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. The richest sources of vegetable protein per cup are tofu (22 grams), tempeh (19g), broccoli rabe (15g), spinach (15g) and asparagus (12g).
Grass-fed beef contains less fat than grain fed beef and is a rich source of zinc, which is essential for immune funtion. Four-ounces contains 20 grams of protein and 32 percent of the daily value for zinc.
The health benefits of protein are endless. Ensure you get a healthy dose daily to build lean muscle and keep your body at its peak performance.