A key component of any healthy diet is lean protein. Not only does lean protein contribute to the development of muscle, but it also lowers cholesterol and speeds up metabolism.
There are all sorts of sources of lean protein. However, you might be questioning: what are the best sources?
This article is going to cover this question below, diving into the top protein foods that you can consume in your meals. By the time you’re through reading this guide, you’re sure to have developed a protein-rich diet.
Lean Protein vs. Fat Protein
Lean protein is one of two primary types of protein. The other is fat protein. Put simply, lean protein offers equal amounts of protein at lower calorie intakes.
So, while a fatty protein might provide 25 grams of protein at 1,000 calories, a lean protein might provide 25 grams of protein at 500 calories. Lean protein provides the same result but without adding as much fat to the body.
Now, this isn’t to say that lean proteins are the only ones you should eat. In fact, you’re advised to eat fatty proteins from time to time as well, as they’re needed to absorb specific vitamins. That said, the lion’s share of your proteins should be lean proteins.
Sources of Lean Protein
Sources of lean protein are many. They run the gamut from meat to nuts to dairy products and more. Let’s discuss them in detail below.
Beloved by bodybuilders the world over, chicken breast is the leanest source of protein in existence. A skinless chicken breast contains around 31 grams of protein. In terms of calories, it runs between 200 and 250.
If you want to keep your calorie intake to a minimum, you should eat your chicken breast plain. However, you could also add it to a variety of different dishes, as it tastes great with a wide range of other foods.
Though it’s not quite as lean as chicken breast, ground turkey is still extremely lean. Four ounces of ground turkey provides 22 grams of protein and contains just 230 calories.
There is an endless array of ground turkey dishes that you can make. These run the gamut from pasta to burgers to soups and much more. Again, however, if you want the best protein-to-calorie ratio possible, you should eat it entirely by itself.
On the same plateau as ground turkey is ground beef. Like ground turkey, 4 ounces of ground beef offers 22 grams of protein at 230 calories.
You can use ground beef in essentially any dish, whether it’s pasta, tacos, burgers, or otherwise. To keep it optimally healthy, however, be sure not to add too many condiments.
Next up is shrimp. Four ounces of shrimp contain around 20 grams of protein. And that’s at only 120 calories. So, if seafood is your thing, highly consider adding a few shrimp to each of your meals.
You can incorporate shrimp into a variety of dishes. This includes everything from shrimp gumbo to shrimp salad to shrimp tacos and more.
Salmon is a protein-rich food as well. Four ounces of salmon has approximately 23 grams of protein. In terms of calories, it contains around 240.
Salmon is a highly versatile fish that works well with an endless array of appetizers and entrees. You can make a burger with it. You can use it in tacos. You can add it to a soup or a salad.
The possibilities are essentially endless. Regardless of how you use it, however, you’re going to be getting plenty of protein with only a small number of calories.
If you’re vegan, your lean protein sources are a little more limited. That said, there are still plenty of great options out there, one of which is tofu. Four ounces of tofu provide 9 grams of protein at only 90 calories; that’s tons of bang for your caloric intake.
You can use tofu in a wide variety of dishes. These include burgers, salads, spicy foods, and much more. If you’re vegan, tofu needs to be part of your dietary arsenal.
Another food that vegans should consider adding to their arsenal is almonds. They are highly versatile and offer quite a bit of protein for only a handful of calories.
An ounce of almonds provides 6 grams of protein with only 164 calories. This isn’t the leanest of the lean, but it’s still certainly on the lean side. And because you could conceivably eat almonds as a snack, it’s a fairly sweet deal.
Greek yogurt is another great source of lean protein. Four ounces of Greek yogurt offers 11 grams of protein at only 140 calories.
Greek yogurt can be used in a number of ways and in a number of meals. Not only can you eat it plain but you can also use it mixed with sauces and dressings. You could also use it to make desserts and other such dishes.
Pork loin is another lean protein food source that you should add to your dietary rotation. Four ounces of pork loin packs 24 grams of protein at only 275 calories.
You could roast your pork loin, use it in a stir fry, put it in tacos, and much more. It works well as a base for many different dishes, and so is highly versatile.
Looking for a lean protein breakfast food? Look no further than eggs. A single egg packs 6 grams of protein and carries only 78 calories.
There are all sorts of things you can do with eggs. You can fry them, scramble them, make them over-easy, and much more. You can also add them to salads, tacos, sandwiches, and essentially any other type of food under the sun.
Another lean protein food to consider is chickpeas. Chickpeas are legumes that can be eaten in a number of ways. A half-cup of chickpeas contains 10 grams of protein to go along with 148 calories.
The best thing about chickpeas is that they can be seamlessly eaten with just about anything. You can add them to your salads, your soups, your sandwiches, and much more, all without greatly affecting the taste of these items.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Now that we’ve discussed some lean protein sources, let’s discuss how much protein you need on a daily basis. In truth, it depends on your activity level. A sedentary person requires much less protein than a highly active bodybuilder or athlete.
Generally speaking, a person needs to consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight they possess. This is for a sedentary individual who’s not trying to excel in the realm of bodybuilding or athletics.
So, if you weighed, say, 150 pounds, you would first need to convert it to kilograms. This is approximately 68. You would then need to multiply that by 0.8.
The result, in this particular case, would be 54.4. A 150-pound person would need to consume at least 54.5 grams of protein on a daily basis to facilitate healthy body functioning.
Now, what about, for example, a bodybuilder? How much protein would they need to consume? They would need to consume approximately double what the average person does, or 1.6 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.
So, if that 150-pound person were a bodybuilder trying to tack on more muscle, they would need to consume at least 99 grams of protein every day. Consuming less than this would not only negatively affect their ability to gain muscle but would also leave them feeling exhausted and lethargic.
How Lean Protein Contributes to a Healthy Diet
We’ve talked about how lean protein differs from fatty protein. We’ve also discussed how much protein a person should be consuming on a daily basis. Now, let’s tie it all together and talk about how lean protein contributes to a healthy diet.
For the most part, it comes down to calories consumed. Sure, you could eat a pizza and get plenty of protein. However, you will also be consuming a substantial number of calories.
So while you may be meeting your protein needs, you’re greatly overshooting your caloric needs. As a result, you’ll gain weight, even if you’re gaining muscle along with it.
Lean protein, conversely, enables you to keep weight gain to a minimum. It offers the same amount of protein at a far reduced number of calories. As such, it enables you to meet your protein needs without gaining a great amount (of any, in many cases) of weight.
This isn’t to say that you should only eat lean protein. However, if you want to maintain a healthy diet, the majority of your protein should come from lean protein sources.
The Benefits of Protein
We’ve lightly touched on the functions of protein. Now, let’s dive headfirst into the particular benefits that protein brings.
Increasing Energy Levels
One big benefit of protein is that it increases energy levels. This is because it repairs body tissues over time. If you weren’t to consume adequate protein on a regular basis, you would likely feel achy and lethargic.
While carbohydrates provide a quick shot of energy, proteins work slowly. In doing so, they provide a solid foundation of energy that keeps the body and mind going, even when meals aren’t being consumed.
One of the primary roles of protein is to repair body tissue. This includes muscle. Therefore, if you want to build muscle over time, you need to make sure that you’re consuming sufficient protein on a regular basis.
Another major benefit of protein is that it boosts metabolism. The reason it does this is that it stimulates the thermic effect of food. This refers to the amount of energy that the body must use in order to absorb, digest, and metabolize certain foods.
In order to properly digest protein, the body must work harder than it does with carbohydrates or fats. Therefore, by eating protein on a regular basis, you essentially burn more calories.
It’s not just the muscles that protein builds but the bones as well. Adequate protein is vital during a person’s formative years, as it ensures that the bones are growing with the rest of the body. It’s also important during a person’s elder years, as it helps to maintain bone during a time when it’s highly susceptible to deterioration.
Protein can also help to increase the hardness of the bones. This makes them less vulnerable to breaking.
One last benefit of protein is that it reduces appetite. The reason for this? It produces a sensation of fullness; it makes you feel as though you don’t need any more food.
In particular, protein reduces ghrelin levels in the body. This is a hunger hormone. The lower its level, the less hungry a person will feel.
But it doesn’t stop there. It also increases peptide YY levels. This is a hormone that produces a “full” feeling. Therefore, the higher it is, the less hungry a person will feel.
So, if you’re looking to lose or even maintain weight, eating plenty of protein is highly recommended. It can keep you from overindulging and thus keep your caloric intake down.
Lean Protein Is a Vital Part of a Healthy Diet
When it comes to devising a healthy diet, don’t forget to include lean protein. Lean foods build muscle, burn fat, lower appetite, and aid brain function. Without these foods, you’ll feel not only weak but mentally fogged as well.
Looking to have lean protein delivered directly to your doorstep? If so, Craveable has you covered.
We deliver top-notch dishes from restaurants all over the West Coast. Regardless of your cuisine preferences, we’re sure to have dishes that accommodate you.
Do you have any questions about our service? Contact us now!