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Protein is considered a macronutrient, meaning if you don’t large amounts of it, your health and body composition will suffer.
The body uses protein to repair and build tissues including muscles. Every cell in the body contains protein. Protein is also essential to make hormones, enzymes and other important bodily chemicals.
Adequate protein is very important when it comes to losing weight. People who want to hold on to muscle they’ve already built may need to increase their protein intake when losing body fat, as a high protein intake can help prevent muscle loss that usually occurs when reducing calories to lose weight. (Source, Source).
How much protein an individual needs is based on several factors like muscle mass, activity level, health, physique goals and is best determined by a registered dietitian.
If someone is a vegetarian or vegan, it can be a challenge to eat enough protein.
Keep in mind that plant sources of protein are incomplete (they do not have all the essential amino acids), with the exception of soybeans and quinoa. If a vegetarian or vegan has a limited diet, they can potentially not be getting their daily protein needs met. They must be careful to eat a wide a variety of protein rich plant foods.
See here for more information on getting adequate protein.
For those eating meat, 1 ounce of protein provides about 7 grams of protein. But for the vegetarian, these options offer a meatless alternative for 1 ounce of protein or 7 grams of protein.
½ cup cooked chickpeas, black beans, edamame or lentils
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
¼ cup tofu
2 tablespoons hummus
1 cup cooked bulgur or quinoa
12 raw almonds
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 slices of bread
1 to 1.5 cups cereal
3 ½ cups vegetables
One large egg
One cup milk