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 >>
One ounce of nuts – roughly 24 almonds or 48 shelled pistachios – delivers approximately 6 grams of protein, along with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. But because nuts are an incomplete protein, with fewer essential amino acids than all high-protein foods, including beans, they nab our lowest protein score. Also, nuts have more calories per ounce – approximately 150 – while those roasted in oil can easily surpass the 200-calorie mark.
Choose a handful of shelled walnuts (about 1/4 cup) for 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 2,500 milligrams of alpha-linolenic acid, shown to reduce heart disease risk. Recent studies have also found that walnuts lower bad LDL cholesterol. Protein power: Fair.