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 >>
Foods made from whole soybeans, like tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, and soy nuts, are low in saturated fat and high in protein, with 22 to 40 grams in every cup. Studies show soy protein can help build muscle almost as effectively as the protein found in animal foods and dairy, but unlike red meat, soy provides high levels of all nine essential amino acids, giving it a higher score.
Choose extra-firm tofu, ideal for stir-fries, chili, or baking with barbecue sauce. Extra-firm tofu has the most protein of all soy foods, with 40 grams per cup, but soft tofu – a non-dairy alternative in smoothies – still delivers a good amount with 32 grams per cup.
Soy also fights cancer: Studies show that eating more of the antioxidant genistein, found in soy, may lower your risk of prostate cancer. Protein power: Excellent.