More protein, fewer carbohydrates: It's the prescription of nearly every weight-loss and muscle-building plan today. But how much protein do you need?
Active men should aim to get 20 percent of their daily calories from protein. So if you weigh 180 pounds and eat about 2,400 calories a day, this means consuming 120 grams – the equivalent of a pound of steak. If this sounds gluttonous, remember that meat isn't the only source. Dairy, soy, fish, beans, and nuts contain protein, as do vegetables and grains. A head of cauliflower packs in 5 grams, while a cup of quinoa delivers 8 grams, the same as a glass of milk. Brown rice and whole-wheat bread have 5 grams and 4 grams of protein, respectively. Although these foods aren't complete proteins, meaning they don't have all nine essential amino acids, they can and should still be combined into your daily protein intake.
Even if you're not vegetarian, consider making more of your meals meatless: Many conventional cuts of meat are packed with saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful additives. Use this guide to help identify which foods are highest in protein but low in saturated fat and unhealthy chemicals. Launch Gallery >>
No matter which type you choose, six ounces of seafood delivers about 40 grams of protein. All seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids, but fatty fish like salmon and mackerel have more of these fats, crucial to heart health and brain function. Since fish can carry high levels of mercury and PCBs, it pays to be conscious of which type you eat and how often. For a full breakdown on healthy seafood varieties, visit the EDF's site on seafood alerts.
Choose wild Alaskan salmon for 42 grams of protein and 2,400 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per six-ounce serving. An equal portion of tilapia has the same amount of protein but only 400 mg of omega-3s. Protein power: Excellent.
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