Eating enough protein is vital to keeping us moving, breathing, and growing. Protein-rich foods also improve satiety, which means they help us feel full and satisfied for longer.
So, which foods contain protein, and how much of each food should we eat? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Proteins?
Proteins are tiny molecules with big responsibilities throughout the entire body. Protein:
- Makes up our tissues, organs, bones, muscles, blood, hair and skin
- Collaborates with our organs and biological systems to perform the actions that keep our bodies functioning
- Fuelsthe building of muscle mass and benefitsour metabolism
- Helps fight off viruses and bacteria to keep the body healthy
- Transmits biological signals throughout our organs, cells and tissues
- Helps our cells perform the chemical reactions that keep us alive
- Providescells with structure and support
How Much Protein Should We Eat?
The amount of protein that each person needs varies depending on their age and gender. In general, individuals should strive for 10-35% of their daily calories to come from protein sources.
Interestingly, eating more protein than your body can process doesn’t provide any benefit; doing so merely increases the number of calories in your daily intake. That’s why it’s important to follow these recommended serving sizes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Children younger than 4 years of age: 13 grams of protein
- Children aged 4-8: 19 grams of protein
- Children aged 9-13: 34 grams of protein
- Women and girls aged 14 and older: 46 grams of protein
- Boys aged 14-18: 52 grams of protein
- Men aged 19 and older: 56 grams of protein
Here are some examples of protein-rich foods and the average amounts of protein they contain. (Check the foods’ packaging labels or use a kitchen scale and measuring cup to properly determine serving sizes and avoid adding more protein and calories than your body needs.)
- Beans, (black, pinto, etc.) ½ cup, cooked: 7 to 10 grams of protein
- Chicken, 4 ounces: 35 grams of protein
- Cottage cheese, 1 cup: 30 grams of protein
- Egg, 1: 6 grams of protein
- Hamburger, 4 ounces or 1/4 pound: 28 grams of protein
- Hummus, ⅓ cup: 7 grams of protein
- Milk, 1 cup: 8 grams of protein
- Mozzarella cheese, 1 ounce: 6 grams of protein
- Parmesan cheese, 1 ounce: 10 grams of protein
- Peanut butter, 2 Tbsp: 7 grams of protein
- Quinoa, ⅓ cup: 6 grams of protein
- Salmon, 3 ounces: 17 grams of protein
- Soybeans, ½ cup, cooked: 14 grams protein
- Steak, 6 ounces: 42 grams of protein
- Sunflower seeds, 1 ounce: 5 grams of protein
- Tofu, 1 ½ cups: 30 grams of protein
- Tuna, 1 ounce: 7 grams of protein
- Yogurt, regular, 1 cup: 8-12 grams of protein
- Yogurt, Greek, 1 cup: 17 grams
Protein is readily available in many of the foods we eat. Easy and quick modifications to recipes could help increase the amount of protein in our meals, such as replacing rice and pasta with quinoa or adding sunflower seeds to a tossed green salad.
Benefits of Eating High Protein Diet
Protein is an essential part of our diet. It is used to build and repair healthy muscles, tendons, skin, and hair. It also converts into energy, making it one of the most important macronutrients for daily life.
Protein provides us with the amino acids required to build and repair muscle, which is a vital component of any fitness routine. It also helps our bodies function properly by aiding the production of hormones, enzymes and other substances crucial to life.
Because protein plays a role in just about every system of the human body, it’s important to eat enough protein at each meal.
Learn more about the benefits of protein from the accompanying infographic.
Infographic by Center for Weight Loss Surgery
AUTHOR BIO: Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.