How Important is Protein to Your Health?

Simply put, proteins are a key part of every organ in our bodies, part of every tissue, corpuscle and even cell that creates the person you are. If your diet lacks protein, it can damage your heart, decrease your muscle mass and weaken your immune system. There’s even a connection between high-protein diets and respiration system function — lack of protein can damage this critical system as well. Yes, a deficiency of high-protein foods in your diet can even kill you.

So, you could say that protein is rather important.

Who is At Risk for Protein Deficiency?

In the world’s developed nations, protein deficiency is rare, but certain people might struggle to get the correct amount for optimal health and others might neglect this nutritional need that is an essential building block of life. Bodybuilders, athletes, people who have had weight loss surgery, vegetarians and vegans may be deficient in protein, which means they’ll need to add high-protein foods to their diets to achieve the proper level. The good news is that there are many protein-rich foods that are available in a wide variety of textures, tastes and from different sources to please every palate.

What Are Foods High in Protein?

When we think of high-protein foods, the first food group that comes to mind is meats. While that’s great news for carnivores, and meat provides an exceptional source of complete protein, with all the essential amino acids the body needs to build blood, muscle and other bodily systems, caution is advised. It is vital to choose only lean cuts of beef or pork, and to avoid eating too much saturated fat. With poultry, avoid the skin and dark meat such as thighs and drumsticks, as they’ll also bring along a large portion of saturated fat. What’s the problem with saturated fat? It has been found that saturated fat can raise your cholesterol, increasing the chance of stroke and heart disease.

Cheese are another group of high-protein foods; however, they can also have a large quantity of saturated fat, plus they’re frequently high in sodium, something else you don’t want to get too much of. Hard cheeses tend to contain the most protein. The highest protein cheeses include parmesan, Swiss and pecorino (35.1, 28.4 and 28.0 grams of protein per 100 grams of cheese).

Seafood is another great food that’s high in protein and healthy fats. At the front of the high-protein fish parade is yellowfin tuna, with approximately 9 grams per ounce. It’s followed by snapper, salmon, tilapia and halibut, all about 7 to 8 grams of protein per ounce. Are you a shellfish fan? Shrimp makes the grade with 7 grams of protein per ounce, while crab and lobster weigh in at about 5 grams.

What if I’m vegetarian or vegan?

For people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, one of the highest protein foods are mature roasted soybeans, with 68 grams of protein in every cup. Typically, the older and larger the beans are, the higher the protein punch. The bottom line is: Rroasted soybean for bodybuilding stamina is a great choice!

Yeast extract, popular in Europe, is fast becoming popular in the U.S. as a high-protein vegan option. The spreadable version is known as marmite in the U.K. and vegemite in Australia and New Zealand, and it is a nutritious companion for bread or crackers. You’ll get about 1.2 protein grams per teaspoon (in addition to a healthy portion of vitamin B12, a vitamin that vegetarians and vegans often lack).

Other top high-protein foods for those who don’t eat meat include hemp seeds, most beans, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, quinoa and most nuts.

Although many of the vegetarian protein foods are incomplete proteins, lacking one or more essential amino acids, it is easy to get the benefit of a complete protein by eating a complimentary food.

Rice and beans is one example, but there are many other complete protein combinations in vegan and vegetarian cookbooks.

The Power of High Protein Shakes

In addition to high-protein foods, high-protein shakes are a delicious way to supplement your diet for added protein. They’re extremely useful, even essential, for those who have just had weight loss surgery, people with busy lifestyles and individuals putting together high-protein meal systems for a healthy weight loss program. Bodybuilders, athletes and dieters will often add high-protein bars and various protein snacks to the mix, to develop or maintain strong muscles. There are also high-protein mail order meals available that are great for those who don’t have time to cook but want to eat healthy.

For losing weight, healing from surgery or building muscle, a high-protein diet will help you to achieve your goals!