Every cell in our body has protein as an indispensable constituent. Proteins have a role to play in all living cells as they participate in all metabolic activities of the cell. We can say that it is imperative that we have a good supply of protein rich food to lead a healthy life.
Role of protein in our body
Protein performs innumerable functions in our body. Here are some of the major functions of protein rich food for our body (1).
- Maintenance and repair of cells
- Maintain structure of cells
- As antibodies in immune system
- As hormone
- As enzymes
- As transport components to carry vital substances
The role of proteins goes on. We can say that the body cannot function without proteins.
Some of the best protein rich food
Proteins are found in a variety of foods. In general animal foods contain higher amount of proteins.
Eggs are a good source of protein rich food, about 13-14 %. The protein in eggs is a complete protein that is it contains all the essential amino acids. Eggs have almost no carbohydrate, if anyone is looking for a low carbohydrate food.
And with egg a variety of recipes can be made and it is also an irreplaceable ingredient in several food products which are protein rich food.
Legumes or pulses are the major source of dietary protein for many, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Pulses contain approximately 21–25% protein about double of what cereals contain (2).
Legumes do not provide all the essential amino acids but when consumed along with cereals they provide all the essential amino acids. Cereal and pulse proteins together make a good protein rich food.
Legumes not only provide proteins but are also good sources of carbohydrate and micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc (3).
- Meat and chicken
Whether it is lamb or beef or chicken, they are all good sources of complete protein. They contain all the essential amino acids therefore they are all complete protein sources. These flesh foods contain on an average 25 % protein (4).
All kinds of animal meat are good sources of protein rich food.
- Sea food
The protein content of different types of fish on an average 20% (4). And the protein is complete protein. Fish has absolutely no carbohydrate in case you are looking for low carb food.
Fish are also good source of omega 3 fatty acids which exhibit several health benefits.
Nuts are good sources of protein rich food and nuts such as almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts provide on an average 20 % protein. Walnuts, hazel nuts and Brazil nuts have slightly lower protein content that is around 15 % (4).
They can be incorporated into many recipes and nuts also make a good nutritious snack.
Peanuts provide 25 % protein which makes them a rich source of protein. Peanut butter contains about 23 % protein (4).
Peanuts make a very nutritious protein rich food in the form of roasted, boiled and masala peanuts. They can be made into peanut sauce to be eaten along with vegetables. Peanuts can be included in countless recipes.
Soybean is a protein rich food. It scontain about 40 % protein (3). It is also a source of complete protein, that is it supplies all the essential amino acids. Soy products such as texturized vegetable protein (TVP products) are also good sources of protein.
- Firm tofu
Firm tofu is a soybean product made out of soy milk which is also a protein rich food. It contains 17 % protein and is a source of complete protein. That is, it supplies all the essential amino acids (4).
Tofu can be used in soups, salads and even as an alternative to paneer.
- Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a protein rich food, containing more protein than any cereal. That is, they contain 16 % or even little more depending on the variety. Chia seeds are one of those few plant sources which contain all the nine essential amino acids (5).
Quinoa has about 14 % protein which is more than any of the cereals (4). Quinoa protein quality is on par with milk protein and therefore superior to proteins from cereals such as rice and wheat (6, 7). It contains all the essential amino acids and therefore is a completely protein rich food.
- Dairy products
Milk and milk products such as cheese, buttermilk, yogurt contain good quality protein. They provide all the essential amino acids, hence a protein rich food.
Dairy products are good source of calcium too.
Cereals do not contain high amounts of protein but they are complementary to the legume proteins. The essential amino acids missing in legumes are present in cereals. Cereals and legumes in combination make complete protein rich food. That is the reason why cereal proteins play a crucial role in vegetarian diets.
And we eat cereals in substantial quantities and therefore they supply protein in a reasonably good amount.
The above list of protein rich food are good sources of protein and several delicious products can be made of these foods. They can play an important role in meeting the protein requirement.
- Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health, Proteins are the basis of our structure and function: 124. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Second Edition. New York and London.
- Singh, N. (2017) Pulses: an overview, Journal of Food Science and Technology. Vol.54 (4).