Are you eating enough protein?
Whether you're vegan or an omnivore, find out how to meet your protein needs
Are you eating enough protein?
Want to feel satisfied, support muscle growth, keep blood sugar stable, and create hormone balance? If so, prioritize protein. While complex carbohydrates and healthy fats are essential, protein is involved in even more key functions. Consuming adequate protein is the secret to a slew of health benefits, including hormone production. Without further ado, let’s dive into all-things protein. Plus, a high protein foods list for both vegans and omnivores alike.
Why do we need protein?
We need protein. It helps us grow and repair cells, produce hormones, sustain pregnancy, and much more. Speaking of hormones, protein supports estrogen, insulin, and thyroid hormone production. In other words, we need protein to create hormones! Protein is found in a wide range of foods, and it’s important to get enough in your daily diet. That said, how much protein you need will vary depending on your weight, sex, age, and health. Protein comes from both plant and animal sources. Think: eggs, fish, poultry, cheese, tofu, nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds.
How much protein do you need?
The answer is nuanced. Ultimately, it’s best to take a bio-individual approach. Meaning, you want to consider your activity level, age, menstrual cycle, blood sugar, and more. That said, while the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.36 grams of protein per pound—this amounts to 54 grams per day for a 150 pound person—most experts will tell you that’s too low. We find that a good rule of thumb is roughly 20-30 grams of protein per meal. Again, this will vary across the board (particularly if you’re pregnant).
Can you get all the protein you need on a vegan diet?
Yes! If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as you eat a wide variety of foods, you can absolutely get the protein you need. For example, a meal containing lentils, black beans, and hemp seeds provides all the essential amino acids found in a typical meat dish. If you eat a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, focus on diversifying your plant foods (aim for 30+ plants, every week). In turn, you'll ensure an adequate mix of essential amino acids. When in doubt, work with a plant-forward healthcare provider to make sure you're getting enough vitamins, minerals, and protein.
With general serving sizes in mind, below are a few vegan protein options (each contain 8-10 grams protein):
- Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc.): 1/4 cup
- Seeds (i.e. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.): 3 tablespoons
- Hemp seeds: 2 tablespoons
- Tofu: 1/2 cup
- Tempeh: 1/3 cup
- Lentils: 1/2 cup (cooked)
- Beans (black, pinto, etc.): 1/2 cup (cooked)
Omnivore sources of protein:
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it will help spark inspiration.
- Chicken breast: one 4-oz skinless chicken breast (30-35 grams protein).
- Deli slices: 4-5-oz deli slices (16+ grams protein)
- Ground turkey / chicken: 4-oz ground turkey (30+ grams protein)
- Egg: 2 medium eggs (12 grams protein)
- Pork tenderloin: 4-oz tenderloin (30+ grams protein)
- Ham: 4-oz slices (24 grams protein)
- Uncured prosciutto or salami: 2-oz slices (12 grams protein)
- Uncured bacon: 3 slices (9-24 grams protein—more for turkey bacon)
- Ground beef: 3-oz (22 grams protein)
- Steak: 3-oz (22 grams protein)
- Tuna: 1 regular-sized can or 1 packet (43 grams protein)
- Smoked salmon: 5-oz (25-30 grams protein)
- Salmon filet: one 5-oz filet (5-oz (25-30 grams protein)
- Shrimp: 30 small shrimp (25 grams protein)
- Greek yogurt: 3/4-1 cup (12-17 grams protein)
- Cheese: 1 slice of cheese; 1 string cheese; 1/3 cup shredded cheese; 1/3 cup crumbled cheese (8-10 grams protein)
- Milk: 8 ounces (7 grams protein)
Protein pudding with Greek yogurt
One of our favorite ways to increase protein consumption? Plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with protein, but for an even more satiating snack, we like to add 10-20 grams of protein powder to the yogurt.
Protein pudding recipe: mix ½ cup plain Greek yogurt + 1-2 scoops protein powder + 1-2 tablespoons milk (cow’s or non-dairy) to thin the pudding’s consistency. Top with seed cycling seeds, hemp seeds (for more protein!), berries, cinnamon, etc.
Prioritize protein before bed
Want to support lean muscle growth, deep sleep, and hormone health? Have a protein-rich snack before bed! Studies show that protein is effectively digested and absorbed during sleep, thereby stimulating muscle growth as you sleep. In fact, protein can increase muscle protein synthesis up to 22% and improve protein balance overnight—particularly if you exercise consistently. Win win. A few pre-bed, protein-forward snack ideas: Greek yogurt protein pudding (see above), simple protein shake, string cheese + Ella’s Flats, cottage cheese with berries and nut butter, rice cake with peanut butter and hemp seeds, and edamame pods with sea salt.
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