Protein MealIt is often said that we are what we eat. This is actually true, as your bones, hair, and skin are made of proteins such as collagen and keratin.

You should always try to eat balanced meals and make sure you are getting enough of the right nutrients to stay healthy. With our fast-paced lifestyles today, this can be easier said than done. Since so much of your body consists of it, you may need to find some unlikely sources of protein for your diet.

The Importance of Protein

The human body requires protein to live and function. Made up of amino acids, protein is a part of every organ and cell. We use protein to fix and replace cells as well as to help process the foods we eat.

Protein is one of the key nutritional elements for your body because it is the foundation of things like hair, blood, and muscles. It is also where we get a significant portion of the calories we need for energy. In addition, recent research has shown that foods that are abundant in protein may also be good for your heart, as long as you do not overeat.

Surprising Sources of Protein

You may think that you need to buy pricey protein shakes and powders in order to increase the levels of this important nutrient in your diet. Perhaps, if you are planning to be a professional bodybuilder or are just looking to bulk up on muscle without gaining too much weight, these products might prove helpful. However, for the rest of us, it may be better to have a long list of foods to draw upon that contain enough protein to augment your amounts while still adding variety to your meals.

For most people, your protein requirements can be met with just a few servings of meat, beans, or dairy each day. If you eat at least three meals a day, that should be sufficient.

Foods such as nuts, peas, and beans are wonderful sources of protein. In addition, all foods that come from animals, including beef, seafood, and eggs, have plenty of protein as well. Those who do not eat meat are encouraged to add other items containing protein to this list, like seeds and products made from soy. It is also important to monitor your consumption of fats, so make sure the protein-rich foods you select are trimmed of any excess.

To add diversity to your protein intake, you can try different choices in each category. For example, instead of green peas, go with black-eyed peas or perhaps you can select mussels in place of shrimp. You can also try out uncommon options, such as switching from peanut butter to almond or cashew butter.

Many people think of dairy products for their calcium content but, because they are made from animal products, they also have a great supply of protein. Remember, you can add all kinds of foods made from milk to your diet, including cheese and yogurt, for a protein boost.

It can be easy to forget that some processed foods also contain protein and can be added to your list of protein sources. So throw those hot dogs and vegetable burgers on the grill or add some anchovies to your next pizza for an extra supply of protein.

Lentils and rice are good sources of protein and also very versatile. In addition, tofu can be added to many soups, stir fries, and other dishes, even for you carnivores, to increase protein content.

Tips for Eating a Balanced Diet

Studies have shown that most Americans consume a sufficient amount of protein just by eating a normal diet. Nevertheless, everyone is different and some people need more or less than others.

Children require approximately two to four ounces of protein a day. For teenagers and adults, the number jumps to about five or six ounces. Men often require more than women. These numbers assume that you are getting at least a moderate quantity of exercise every day.

Even with these amounts, you must still watch your portion size and make sure you are burning more calories than you take in. A good rule of thumb is to use your fist as a guide. That is a rough estimate for the correct size of a piece of beef or a serving of nuts. Complete information on serving sizes can be found on the packaging of most food products.

Other sensible options for eating right include limiting fried foods and using beans in place of meat once in a while. Soups are also a good way to easily include more vegetables in a meal, especially when cooking for children.

Dieters should also take note that eating more protein may help you lose more weight. Studies have found that protein makes you feel full longer, eliminating the urge to grab junk food between meals.

To further decrease fat and calories without sacrificing flavor, experiment with new seasonings like garlic or peppers. In no time at all, you will find that you are eating healthier without really trying.