Updated: Sep 11, 2021
Protein-rich food provides nutrients to our body that requires to develop and cure up the cells to work properly. It is found in a variety of meals and very important to take such foods which are high in protein, regularly. How much protein we need from our diet varies depending on our weight, gender, age, etc. Meeting our protein requirements can easily be accomplished by having a variety of protein foods.
Sources of protein are plants and animals, for example, meat and fish, dairy products, seeds and nuts, and legumes like beans and lentils.
Proteins are made of amino acids
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids that link together in different ways. our body uses them to make new proteins, such as muscle and bone, and other compounds such as enzymes and hormones. They can also be used up as an energy source.
Some of the amino acids can be created by our body – there are 11 of these types and are known as non-essential amino acids. There are nine amino acids that your body cannot make, which are known as essential amino acids. We require to incorporate some of these into our diet.
Nutritional value of protein
The nutritional value of a protein is measured by the number of essential amino acids it contains.
Different foods contain different amounts of essential amino acids. Usually,
Animal products have most of the essential amino acids and are known as 'complete protein (high-quality protein).
Soya products, quinoa, and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth (consumed in Asia and the Mediterranean) also have all of the essential amino acids.
Plant proteins (beans, lentils, and whole grains) usually lack at least one of the essential amino acids and are considered 'incomplete' proteins.
People following a strict vegan diet need to choose a variety of protein sources from a combination of plant foods every day to make sure they get the right mix of essential amino acids.
If you follow a vegetarian diet, as long as you have a wide variety of foods, you can easily get the protein you need. For example, a meal containing cereals and legumes, such as baked beans on toast, provides all the essential amino acids found in a meat dish.
Some food sources of dietary protein include:
lean meats – beef, lamb, veal, pork, kangaroo
poultry – chicken, duck, emu, goose, bush birds
fish and seafood – fish, prawns, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops
dairy products – milk, yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), cheese (mainly cottage cheese)
nuts (including nut pastes) and seeds – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamia, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
legumes and beans – all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.
Some grains and cereal-based products are also sources of protein but are generally not as high in protein as meat and meat alternative products.
How to get your Protein needs?
Your daily protein needs can easily be met by following the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines group foods into five different food groups, each of which provides key nutrients.
The two main food groups that contribute to protein are the:
‘lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans group
‘milk, yogurt, cheese/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)’ group.
As part of a healthy diet, the Guidelines recommend particular serves per day from each of the five food groups.
The human body can’t store protein and will excrete any excess, so the most effective way of meeting your daily protein requirement is to eat small amounts at every meal.
So, what is a serve? The standard serving size of ‘lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans’ is one of:
65g cooked lean meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat, or kangaroo (about 90 to 100g raw)
80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)
100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw weight) or one small can of fish
2 large eggs
1 cup (150g) cooked dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, or canned beans (preferably with no added salt)
30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt).
A serve of ‘milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)’ could include:
250ml (1 cup) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk
120ml (1/2 cup) evaporated milk
200g (3/4 cup or 1 small carton) yogurt
40g (2 slices) hard cheese such as cheddar
120g (1/2 cup) ricotta cheese.
Protein requirements for children and teenagers change as they grow. Read about the recommended number of serves for children, adolescents, and toddlers for all 5 food groups.
Getting more protein into your day, naturally
If you’re looking for ways to get more protein into your diet, here are some suggestions:
Try a peanut butter sandwich. Remember to use natural peanut butter (or any other nut paste) with no added salt, sugar, or other fillers.
Low-fat cottage or ricotta cheese is high in protein and can go in your scrambled eggs, casserole, mashed potato, or pasta dish. Or spread it on your toast in the morning.
Nuts and seeds are fantastic in salads, with vegetables and served on top of curries. Try toasting some pine nuts or flaked almonds and putting them in your green salad.
Beans are great in soups, casseroles, and pasta sauces. Try tipping a drained can of cannellini beans into your favorite vegetable soup recipe or casserole.
A plate of hummus and freshly cut vegetable sticks as a snack or hummus spread on your sandwich will give you easy extra protein at lunchtime.
Greek yogurt is a protein-rich food that you can use throughout the day. Add some on your favorite breakfast cereal, put a spoonful on top of a bowl of pumpkin soup or serve it as a dessert with some fresh fruit.
Eggs are a versatile and easy option that can be enjoyed on their own or mixed in a variety of dishes.
Getting too little protein (protein deficiency)
Protein deficiency means not getting enough protein in your diet. It is rare in Australia, as the Australian diet generally includes far more protein than we actually need. However, protein deficiency may occur in people with special requirements, such as older people and people following strict vegan diets.
Symptoms of protein deficiency include:
wasting and shrinkage of muscle tissue
edema (build-up of fluids, particularly in the feet and ankles)
anemia (the blood’s inability to deliver sufficient oxygen to the cells, usually caused by dietary deficiencies such as lack of iron)
slow growth (in children).
Protein – maintaining muscle mass as you age
From around 50 years of age, humans begin to gradually lose skeletal muscle. This is known as sarcopenia and is common in older people. Loss of muscle mass is worsened by chronic illness, poor diet, and inactivity.
Meeting the daily recommended protein intake may help you maintain muscle mass and strength. This is important for maintaining your body strength.
To maintain muscle mass, it’s important for older people to take protein ‘effectively’. This means consuming high-quality protein foods, such as lean meats.
Protein shakes, powders, and supplements
Protein shakes, powders and supplements are not important for most peoples' health needs. According to the recent national nutrition survey, 99% of Australians get enough protein through the food they eat.
Any protein you eat on top of what your body needs will either be excreted from your body as waste, or stored as weight gain.
The best way for you to get the protein you need is to eat a wide variety of protein-rich foods as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines, as part of a balanced diet. But if you are still interested in using protein shakes, powders and supplements, consult your doctor.
Protein and exercise
Soon after exercising, it’s recommended that you have a service of high-quality protein (such as a glass of milk or tub of yogurt) with a carbohydrate meal to help maintain your body’s protein balance. Studies have shown this to be good for you, even after low to moderate aerobic exercise, particularly for older adults.
People who exercise vigorously or are trying to put on muscle mass do not need to consume extra protein. High-protein diets do not lead to increased muscle mass.
Studies show that trainers who do not eat extra protein still gain muscle at the same rate as weight-trainers supplement their diets with protein.
Very high protein diets are dangerous
Some fat diets encourage very high protein intakes of between 200 and 400g per day. This is more than five times the amount recommended in the Dietary Guidelines.
A very high-protein diet can strain the kidneys and liver. It can also prompt excessive loss of the mineral calcium, which can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
Where to get help
Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. 1800 812 942
The cheapest protein source in India
Proteins are the essential macronutrients for the body. They are responsible for muscle growth. For this reason, they are considered as building blocks of the body. This is the reason why most gym-goers include a lot of protein in their diet. Your body requires a lot of protein, whether you do work out or not.
General recommendations say that a normal healthy person requires around 50 – 60 gm of protein for both men and women. When you talk about gym and protein. The first thing that comes to your mind is protein supplements. However, they are more costly and many people cannot afford them. Let me make you aware of the fact that, to build muscle you don’t need any supplement.
The body absorbs protein as a whole. Your body doesn’t bother about the source it comes from. There are several alternatives and many cheapest high protein foods available in India.
In this article, I’ll tell you what protein is and the 5 cheapest protein sources in India, with cost per gram of protein.
As mentioned earlier, proteins are a very important macronutrient for our body like carbohydrates and fats. Every cell in the body has protein in it. It helps the body to recover, and build cells and tissues. proteins are considered as building blocks of the body. It is made up of a long chain of 20 amino acids. The certain order of amino acids arranged in a long chain determines the structure and role of each protein.
These food sources provided in this article are easily available in the Indian market and are the cheapest protein source in India:
1. Soya chunks:
Soya chunks are also called ‘vegetarian’s meat’. They are full of polyunsaturated fats, omega 3 fatty acids, proteins and they are also rich in calcium and iron while providing no extra sugar or sodium to the body. Soya chunks are a good protein source for vegetarians.
Total calories per 100 grams of soya chunks: 345 calories
Cost per 100 grams of soya chunks: 20 INR approximately.
Protein per 100g: 52 grams
Cost per 1 gram of protein: 0.4 INR approximately.
However, on the other side it is one of the most controversial food items presently. Having too much soya or other soya related products can boost up estrogen and uric acid levels in the body. If you consume soya regularly, you’re more likely to develop female characteristics of the body.
An increase in uric acid levels may also damage your liver and kidneys. Therefore, it is healthy to only have 24 to 30 grams of soya chunks eacch day.
Eggs are the most affordable and easily available protein. Eggs in our diet offer a lot of health advantages. A large egg contains 18 different vitamins and minerals. This is also among the most controversial food items. Many people consume only egg whites and throw away the most nutritious part ‘egg yolk’ for the only reason, it contains fat and cholesterol.
However, the cholesterol present in egg yolk is dietary cholesterol. It does not interfere with blood cholesterol levels. There are no general recommendations on egg consumption. You can have up to 6 whole eggs in a day. The only thing you’ve to do is, keep a note on your fat consumption. If you eat more egg yolks, fat consumption in a day increases. Resultantly, your daily calories also increase and you’re more likely to gain weight.
Cost of an egg: 5 INR
Total calories: 78 calories.
Protein in 1 whole egg: 6 grams
Cost per 1 gram protein: 0.83 INR
3. Chicken breast: Chicken is the most common poultry available in the world. It is not only the best non-veg protein source, but it also contains fat in the lowest proportion compared to its counterparts. If you are looking for a lean protein, then the chicken breast is your go. It is also a good source of vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, etc. Chicken contains healthier fats compared to those found in red meat.
Generally, chicken breasts are higher in cost compared to wings and thighs. If you can afford few extra rupees, I would recommend you to go for boneless chicken breast.
Total calories per 100g of chicken breast: 120 calories
Cost per 100g: 25 – 30 INR
Protein per 100g: 23 grams
Cost per 1g protein: 1 rupee approximately
4. Green moong:
Green moong is also called mung bean. One of the most nutritious food and also the cheapest protein source in India. It is a plant species in the legume family and is mainly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent. It is a traditional ingredient in Indian cooking, often used in curries. Like other legumes, green moong is low in fat and high in protein and fiber. It is also a rich source of magnesium, iron, and vitamin B-6.
You can consume green moong either soaked or roasted. Soak it overnight in enough water. Remove the water in the morning and consume it directly or roast the dal directly on the pan on a low flame for one minute. Wash and soak the mung beans in enough water for an hour and use as per recipe requirements.
Total calories per 100 grams: 334 calories
Cost per 100 grams: 10 INR
Protein per 100 grams: 24 grams
Cost per 1 gram protein: 0.41 INR
If you are looking for a complete protein other than chicken, here’s milk. Female mammals produce milk to feed their young since evolution. It is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It provides potassium, B12, calcium, and vitamin D, and is also a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, and thiamine.
Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein and contains hundreds of different fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s.
The nutritional content of milk varies, depending on factors like its fat content and the cow’s feed and treatment of the cow it came from. For instance, milk from grass-fed cows contains significantly higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, which help reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress.
If you are too cautious about your daily fat intake, then I suggest you go ahead with skimmed milk.
Other forms of milk such as flavored milk are always a NO as they contain sugar in huge amounts. A glass of milk (250ML) can serve to be a good protein option. Either it is fat loss or weight gain, including a glass of milk at any time of the day.
Total calories in 250ML skimmed milk: 105 calories
Cost for 250ML: 10 INR
Protein in 250ML: 9 grams
Cost for 1gram of protein: 1.1 INR
The 5 cheapest protein sources suggested in this article are completely on my experience. You can add these foods to your daily diet to get enough protein. These foods are not to treat or cure any disease.
Consult your doctor before changing your diet patterns. The cost of these foods may vary a little depending on your location.