If you're a vegetarian or vegan you've probably been told how important it is to get protein. But even most meat-eating adults don't get enough protein in their daily diet.
Do you know how much protein you should have in your diet? About 20% of your total calories should come from protein!
The current recommendation is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, for the average male that means about 56 grams a day and 46 grams for women. Active adults or athletes may need more protein than that.
Below is a list of delicious, non-meat proteins you can add to your diet.
Edamame ( 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces)
Lentils (18 grams of protein per cooked cup)
Chickpeas (15 grams of protein per cooked cup)
Ezekiel bread (8 grams of protein per 2 slices)
Wild Rice (7 grams of protein per cooked cup)
Tofu (10 grams of protein per 0.5 cup)
Spinach (5 grams of protein per cooked cup)
Guava (4 grams of protein per cup)
Artichoke (4.5 grams of protein per medium-size artichoke)
Green Peas (8 grams of protein per cup)
Adding a few of these items to your regular diet can supplement your protein intake and help you feel fuller in between meals. Many of these foods are also high in fiber, vitamin C, and calcium.
Complete Protein vs. Incomplete Protein
Proteins are made up of amino acids. When you eat protein it's broken back down into those amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids. Most of those amino acids our bodies can produce on their own.
However, there are about 9 amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. Therefore, we have to get those from food. These amino acids are called essential amino acids.
Foods containing all of the essential amino acids are complete proteins. Foods that have some of the essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins.
Complete protein sources include most meat products, dairy, and eggs but you can also find all essential amino acids in soy, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Eating a Balanced Diet
Too often we focus on counting calories rather than getting the nutrients our bodies need. And it doesn't have to be a complicated tracking system. You can use this healthy plate example to guide your decisions.