Getting an adequate amount of protein is necessary for your health. That is why the nutritional need for protein is at least 50 grams daily. A protein-packed diet offers many health benefits, such as enhancing muscle growth, weight loss, and overall health. However, a busy lifestyle might get in the way, and you might wonder, "How to increase protein intake?" to meet your daily protein requirements.
Well, you can increase protein intake in plenty of ways. You can easily increase your intake by adding small changes to your diet, such as snacking on cheese, opting for eggs instead of cereals, etc.
If you want to learn more simple tricks and tips for effortlessly incorporating more protein into your daily diet, check out the 14 easy ways to increase protein intake listed in this article. But before that, let us understand why protein is important for your body. So, let's dive right in!
The Importance of Protein in a Balanced Diet
Protein is made up of amino acids, also known as building blocks. Protein is called a macronutrient, meaning you must consume large amounts of protein to stay healthy. The importance of protein in a balanced diet can be ascertained due to the following:
1. Muscle Building
Protein is the most important building block of muscles, bones, skin, and cartilage. Your nails and hair are also mostly made up of protein.
Your body needs protein to repair and build new tissues.
Haemoglobin, a protein compound in red blood cells, carries oxygen throughout your body. This helps supply nutrients to your entire body.
Almost half of the dietary protein you consume is used to make enzymes. These enzymes help in digestion.
Proteins are essential in hormone regulation, particularly during the development and transformation of cells during puberty.
Benefits of Increasing Your Protein Intake
Although the health effects of carbs and fat are controversial, the importance of protein is beyond any such controversy. Almost anyone would agree that protein is the most important macronutrient that our body requires. Thus, some science-backed reasons to increase protein intake have been listed below to help you gain a deep understanding:
1. Reduces Appetite and Hunger Levels
Protein helps you feel more full with less quantity of food. This is because protein lowers your hunger hormone known as ghrelin. Protein improves the hormone levels called peptide YY, which makes you feel full.
2. Enhances Muscle Mass and Strength
The building block of muscles in protein. It not only enhances your muscle mass and strength but also prevents the loss of muscles during the weight loss journey.
3. Great for Your Bone Health
Both animal-based and plant-based sources of protein help maintain bone mass better as you age, thus lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
4. Reduces High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure - the major cause of strokes, heart attacks, and chronic kidney diseases- can be checked if your protein intake is high.
5. Boosts Metabolism and Increases Fat-Burning
Studies have shown that high protein intake can significantly boost your metabolism and alleviate the number of calories you lose.
14 Easy Ways to Boost Protein Intake
Boosting your protein intake can be a fantastic way to begin your journey towards a healthier you. To answer your query, "how to increase protein levels," here are the 14 listed small dietary changes that can help you adopt a healthier, more protein-rich lifestyle.
1. Incorporating More Lean Meats and Poultry
Choosing leaner cuts of meat and slightly increasing the portion sizes can boost your protein intake. Besides, this might even lower the calorie content of your meal.
For instance, if you compare the nutritional value of an 85-gram serving of T-bone steak and Sirloin steak, you will find that T-bone steak contains 250 calories and 21 grams of protein, whereas Sirloin steak contains 150 calories and 26 grams of protein.
2. Adding Fish and Seafood to Your Diet
Seafood and fish are extremely low in fat and high in protein. Adding fish and seafood such as Tuna, octopus, anchovy, trout, lobster, whitefish, and mackerel is one of the best ways to increase your protein intake. A 100-gram serving of Tuna contains around 30.7 g of protein.
3. Exploring Plant-Based Protein Sources
Whether vegan or vegetarian, you might wonder "how to increase protein intake for vegetarians." The answer is, however, quite simple. You can include plant-based protein sources in your diet. Plant-based protein sources like nuts, legumes, and soy products are mostly cholesterol-free and fiber-rich. They can help maintain blood sugar levels, gain weight, and reduce constipation.
4. The Power of Dairy and Dairy Alternatives
Dairy products contain two kinds of proteins - whey and casein. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and especially Greek yogurt are protein-rich. However, if you are allergic to milk proteins, you can choose dairy alternatives such as soy milk, hemp milk, and oat milk as protein sources.
5. Add Peanut Butter to Your Diet
The delicious, creamy, high-protein peanut butter can be paired well with various ingredients such as oatmeal, whole wheat toast, celery, yogurt, and fruits like apples and pears. A 32-gram peanut butter spread on sliced fruit can increase the total protein content by almost 7 grams. Additionally, peanut butter can improve your heart health, lower blood sugar, and decrease appetite.
6. Snack on Cheese
As long as you snack on healthy foods, it is a good way of adding extra protein to your diet. Common snack items like pretzels, chips, and crackers have extremely low protein content. A 30-gram serving of tortilla chips has only 2 grams of protein but has 142 calories.
On the other hand, a 28-gram serving of cheddar cheese contains almost 30 fewer calories, 7 grams of protein, and six times as much calcium. Besides, cheese doesn't raise cholesterol levels much. It is also known to benefit heart health. Thus, you can have cheese sticks between your meals or eat tomatoes, whole grain crackers, or sliced apples with your favorite type of cheese.
7. Munch on Edamame
Edamame is unripened steamed soybeans. The high protein content of soybeans among legumes makes it a popular food choice among vegans and vegetarians. A 155 grams serving of edamame contains around 188 calories and 19 grams of protein. Edamame is also rich in antioxidants.
8. Eggs: A Nutrient-Packed Protein Source
The nutrient-packed eggs can meet your protein requirements for the whole day. Try adding more eggs to your day. Adding fried eggs or hard-boiled eggs to your bowls, salads, and burgers can be a great way to boost your protein intake. Eggs provide almost 6 grams of protein each.
9. Enjoy More Whole Grains
Whole grains contain important nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Whole grains can dramatically boost your protein intake. 185 grams of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. However, cooked amaranth will provide 9 grams of protein per 246 grams.
10. Incorporating Protein-Rich Grains and Cereals
Incorporating high-protein grains and cereals into your diet can fulfill daily protein requirements. Quinoa, couscous, oats, buckwheat, and millet brown rice are exceptionally good plant-based protein sources.
11. Protein in Your Salads and Sides
You can make your salads more filling and nutritious by adding protein-packed foods like eggs, chicken, canned tuna, shredded cheese, and chickpeas. Also, using Greek yogurt, tahini, protein-rich seeds, or nut butter as your salad dressing can increase protein absorption.
12. Homemade Protein Smoothies
Delicious but unbalanced smoothies can leave you feeling sluggish, hungry, and with worsened food cravings. Preparing homemade protein smoothies can benefit you from more stable energy levels and balanced blood sugar and keep you full for a long time. Adding protein powder, white beans, almond butter, cashews, and dairy or soy milk can significantly boost your protein intake.
13. Protein-Packed Soups and Stews
Soups and stews aren't filling. You tend to feel hungry in an hour or so. However, now you can make your tummy full as well as enhance your protein intake by preparing protein-packed soups and stews. Lasagna soup, black bean and lentil soup, chicken tortilla soup, and protein-packed minestrone are just a few options.
14. High-Protein Dessert Options
Protein-packed dessert options will satisfy your sweet tooth and boost your protein intake. You can make peanut butter cups, chocolate protein pudding, high protein cheesecake, chocolate workout brownies, and such to satisfy your insatiable dessert cravings and nourish your body.
Getting enough protein daily is non-negotiable. However, increasing your protein intake doesn't have to be daunting. As per expert recommendations, an active person should consume 0.54 to 0.9 g of protein/pound of their body weight each day.
Luckily, there are many protein-rich foods, including plant and animal-based sources. And, with these 14 simple yet effective strategies discussed above, you can now seamlessly increase protein intake in your daily diet and reap the numerous health benefits it offers. So, what are you waiting for? Add whey to your diet today.