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Updated on January 19, 2023
Which Types of Protein Should You Be Eating Each Day? Here Are 20 Healthy Ideas
No matter what you do with your days, there’s one building block that your body needs to do it with ease: protein.
A diet rich in protein is a cornerstone of feeling energetic, vibrant, and healthy. But what actually is protein? And how do you make sure you’re getting enough?
In the following blog, you'll learn what protein is, why you need it, and the optimal amount of grams to consume per day. Plus, you'll see which 20 foods are high in protein so that you can add them to your grocery list and have a better chance at hitting your daily protein goals.
What Is Protein, and Why Do You Need It?
Protein is one of the most important nutrients in the body. It works to grow and replenish your cells, and is responsible for a host of functions that are vital to keeping you healthy and happy (1).
In the more technical sense of things, proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids that are all linked together. There are thousands of different proteins in your body, and each is made up of a combination of 20 different amino acids (2).
Protein helps your body create new cells and repair the ones you already have. It also supports growth in young people and pregnant women. It can help you feel fuller and avoid energy crashes. As you age, protein is especially helpful in maintaining bone health and muscle strength.
Is There a Best Time to Eat Protein?
Getting the most out of protein is all about how much of it you eat and when you eat it. In general, consuming protein in the morning is your best bet for overall well-being (3). When you eat a high-protein breakfast, you can help boost weight loss, improve your muscle health, stay fuller longer, and boost how many calories you burn (4).
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Health professionals don’t always agree on the amount of protein one should consume each day, but most experts recommend this simple method: One to two palm-sized portions of protein with each meal.
For a more precise way of calculating your daily protein needs, use the following chart…
Low Protein: For those with larger amounts of body fat to lose
Body Weight in lbs x .65
Moderate Protein: For those aiming for recomposition or fat loss that isn’t more than 15 to 20 lbs
Body Weight in lbs x .875
High Protein: For those who train or lift 5x per week and aren’t trying to lose a ton of weight, but want to keep muscle mass
Body Weight in lbs x 1
Body Weight in lbs x 1.1
If you’re a woman over 50, experts recommend getting between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (5). (For reference, one kilogram is 2.2 pounds.)
Healthier Protein: The Difference Between Grass-Fed And Grain Fed Beef
At NativePath, we prioritize ethically-raised, grass-fed, organic protein. That said, we recommend avoiding any meat products that are marked as grain-fed or grain-finished.
The difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef is astonishing…
Grain-fed cows eat a diet of genetically modified corn, soybean, and grains that are full of pesticides. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, these cows live painful, short lives in cramped quarters, resulting in meat that often contains drug-resistant bacteria, including salmonella (6).
Cows who are grain-finished are briefly allowed access to grass—the very thing that cows are supposed to eat—for a short portion of their lives, but are then finished off with an unhealthy grain diet to get them ready for slaughter.
Grass-fed cows, on the other hand, spend their entire lives on pastures, just as they were made to do. They eat a diet of grass, plants, and shrubs, ultimately leading to healthier beef.
20 Healthy Sources of Protein
Ready to ramp up your protein routine? Here are some healthy sources…
1. Grass-Fed Collagen
Grass-fed collagen offers a wide range of health benefits, including stronger bones, a decrease in joint pain, increased muscle mass, glowing skin—and of course, protein (7, 8, 9)! What does grass-fed collagen mean? It means it’s derived from cows who are grass-fed, which as we now know, makes for a much healthier source. Stir some collagen into your coffee or smoothie each morning for an easy boost.
2. Hydrolyzed Beef Protein
Hydrolyzed beef protein is derived from a beef infusion process that preserves important vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Because it contains all 9 essential amino acids, hydrolyzed beef protein is considered a complete protein.
3. Grass-Fed Bison
4. Organic, Pasture-Raised Chicken
Chicken is full of protein, niacin, phosphorous, and selenium. When eaten as part of a veggie-rich diet, poultry is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and other health issues (11).
5. Organic, Pasture-Raised Duck
In addition to protein, duck meat offers B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and half of your body’s daily iron needs (12).
6. Organic, Pasture-Raised Eggs
Not only are eggs delicious, but they’re also incredibly versatile to eat! These breakfast favorites are high in HDL (“good” cholesterol), iron, phosphorous, vitamins A and B12, choline, and of course, protein (13).
7. Wild-Caught Fish
Salmon and other wild-caught fish are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and D, zinc, potassium, and iron. It’s an excellent heart-healthy protein option (14).
8. Lentils, Peas, & Green Beans
Lentils, peas, and green beans are some of the most protein-rich foods out there...
Lentils: 1 Cup = 18 Grams Protein
These tiny pulses from the legume food family are a great vegetarian protein option. Brown, green, red, and yellow lentils are all delicious protein sources (15).
- Peas: 1 Cup = 8 Grams Protein
Peas make a tasty boost to all kinds of healthy recipes—and along the way, they’ll amp up the protein content of any dish (16).
Green Beans: 1 Cup = 1.8 Grams Protein
High in both protein and fiber, but low in calories, green beans are an excellent addition to any meal (and a fantastic source of vitamin K).
Nuts are both rich in protein and absolutely delicious. A few of the most protein-packed options include…
Almonds: 1 Ounce (About 24 Almonds) = 6 Grams Protein
Almonds are an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, antioxidants, and healthy fats. You’ll get the biggest health boost if you eat them with the skin.
Walnuts: 1 Ounce (About 14 Walnut Halves) = 4.5 Grams Protein
Walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut, and have been associated with a lowered risk of heart disease (17).
Brazil Nuts: 1 Ounce (About 8 Medium Brazil Nuts) = 4 Grams Protein
An exceptional anti-inflammatory food, brazil nuts contain several important nutrients, including protein, fiber, magnesium, copper, and selenium. Selenium is crucial for thyroid function, helps balance mood, and boasts anti-cancer properties (18, 19).
These seeds weigh in at some of the highest protein levels around…
Hemp Seeds: 3 Tablespoons = 10 Grams Protein
Hemp seeds have a mellow, nutty flavor and can be sprinkled on any dish or added to smoothies for an extra protein boost. They contain all nine amino acids, making them a complete protein (rare among plants), and are rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and more (20).
Pumpkin Seeds: 3 Tablespoons = 9 Grams Protein
Pumpkin seeds contain phosphorus, manganese, iron, copper, B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin E. They are high in magnesium (excellent for the heart and so many critical bodily functions as we mentioned for almonds above) and a rich source of zinc (important for immunity, sleep, sexual function, and mood) (21).
Chia Seeds: 3 Tablespoons = 6 Grams Protein
Chica means “strength” in the Mayan language, and warriors used these little seeds for fuel. With protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthy ingredients, chia seeds are an excellent option in pudding or other dishes (22).
Flax Seeds: 3 Tablespoons = 6 Grams Protein
In addition to providing protein, flaxseeds contain fiber, high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They’re known to improve hair and skin health, promote weight loss, and support digestive health. Flaxseeds also boast high amounts of antioxidants, may help prevent certain types of cancer, and aid in weight loss (23).
11. Unsweetened Plant-Based Yogurt
Our favorite plant-based yogurt is Kite Hill, an almond-milk yogurt with live, active cultures and rich in plant-based protein. There are all kinds of tasty plant-based yogurts on the market that are loaded with protein—just make sure to reach for the unsweetened varieties (23). 5.3 Ounces of Kite Hill = 4 Grams Protein.
This refreshing veggie is great grilled, steamed, or roasted. It’s high in protein, folic acid, fiber, potassium, thiamin, vitamins A and C, and other nutrients (25). 1 Cup = 2.9 Grams Protein.
This tasty, creamy snack is rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and many other beneficial ingredients (26). Add it to your salad, gluten-free toast, grass-fed burger, and more! 1 Medium Avocado = 3 Grams Protein.
Chickpeas contain protein and starchy carbohydrates. They also offer high amounts of fiber, (which supports healthy digestion), and iron, zinc, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins. These vital nutrients may be lacking in those who do not consume animal products. Soak chickpeas and prepare them properly to reduce antinutrient content. Chickpeas are most often enjoyed as hummus—a delicious dip for raw veggies (27). ½ Cup Cooked = 7.5 Grams Protein.
15. Lean Grass-Fed Beef
When enjoyed in moderation, lean beef is a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and B6.
However, beef is also associated with higher risks of certain health issues, so make sure lean beef is a small percentage of your animal protein intake, and opt most days for alternatives like fish and poultry (28, 29).
16. Organic, Pasture-Raised Turkey
Turkey is high in protein, lower in fat and calories, and stocked up with zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, and other beneficial ingredients (30).
This tree-like veggie offers protein, fiber, vitamins K and C, and other vital nutrients (31)!
18. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts feature plenty of vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber, and of course, protein (32).
This protein-filled, nutrient-loaded veggie is versatile enough to enjoy in dozens of different ways. Say hello to cauliflower pizza, cauliflower mash, or even tasty plain cauliflower (33).
These low-fat thistles are full of protein, fiber, folate, vitamins C and K, phosphorus, magnesium, and more (34).
The Bottom Line
Protein is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age. Getting enough protein each day is paramount, but thankfully it’s easier than ever to do so.
To load up on protein before your day has even begun, start your mornings with protein-rich NativePath Collagen. Simply add 2 scoops to your coffee and you’ve already consumed 18 grams of pure, grass-fed protein.
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.