Protein is perhaps the most essential for the three macronutrients being used in the synthesis of many tissues and cells within the body. It’s incredibly easy to get lots of protein if you know which foods to eat. And it’s not only steak or chicken which is high in protein. There are plenty of other protein-packed foods out there which you can eat for an affordable price to up your protein game.

Importance Of Protein

Protein plays many roles within the body and is not only for building muscle. The proteins you eat are disassembled within the body into their individual amino acids and reassembled to produce the proteins the body needs for building muscle, bone tissue, hormones, enzymes and various other tissues within the body.

  • Muscle: Higher levels of protein which support exercise have been shown to help increase muscle protein synthesis. Furthermore, in a caloric deficit, high protein diets can help preserve lean muscle mass so that muscle loss is drastically reduced. In the absence of exercise, it’s even possible for an abundant supply of amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a certain extent.
  • Joints: A type of protein known as collagen is used in tissues such as tendons, ligament and bone. Consuming more collagen will help to stimulate the growth and strengthening of these tissues so they can take more wear and tear. This is especially important as you age, particularly if you want to stay active. Many studies have shown it can help to reduce joint pain.
  • Satiety and fat loss: Protein ingestion, particularly at higher quantities has been linked to increased satiety, increased thermogenesis and maintenance or accretion of fat-free mass. What this means is, eating more protein is more likely to make you feel full, increase energy expenditure during digestion and help with losing fat-free mass whilst maintaining muscle mass. This makes eating higher protein during a ‘low calorie’ period a great idea for making sure you don’t go to bed hungry (which is a bad idea).
  • Hormones and enzymes: Protein is used to create hormones and enzymes within your body. This is especially important for keeping yourself metabolically healthy and ensuring your body is in homeostasis. For example, haemoglobin is a protein in the blood which binds to iron. There are many enzymes in your gut which are made of proteins. Examples of hormones made from proteins include growth hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Proteins tend to be split into animal and plant proteins. Generally speaking, animal sources are better for protein since these are complete proteins meaning they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs in the right amounts. Plant proteins, on the other hand, tend to contain some but not all the amino acids the body needs. However, we can get around this issue by mixing together protein sources such as beans and rice to make a ‘complete’ protein. However, I wouldn’t exactly choose rice as a protein food since it is far higher in carbohydrates.

To help create awareness about the diversity of protein sources out there, I’ve compiled a list of reasonably priced protein sources I believe most people will have access to.

Animal Protein

#1 – Chicken

Regardless of what part of the chicken you eat, it tends to be high in protein. The breast will have the most protein in terms of protein to energy, whilst other cuts such as the thighs and wings will contain more fat, but it’s all good stuff. I suggest roasting them and having a nice sauce with them if you want the additional flavour.

#2 – Eggs

Eggs are what I like to call mother nature’s protein bomb. They contain all the nutrients a chick needs to hatch. A perfect blend of protein and fat along with micronutrients. I enjoy poaching them in tomato sauce, making omlettes or scrambling them.

#3 – Tinned Tuna

Whilst tinned tuna tastes a bit bland on its own, it’s great when it comes to being protein-packed. Adding mayo or olive oils seems to be a good way to add more flavour to this food.

#4 – Tinned Sardines

These are perhaps my favourite ‘easy’ addition to any diet. You can simply pop them out of a tin and eat them. They contain about an equal amount of protein to fat, and the fat is in the form of omega 3 DHA which many people are lacking in their diet.

#5 – Ham

Ham is a popular choice for sandwiches, but there’s no reason why you can’t have it on its own or with a dip. For those who aren’t too adventurous with cooking or prefer something simple, ham is a viable option.

#6 – Offal

By offal, I’m talking about all organ meats. Organ meats tend to be exceptionally high in a vast range of micronutrients as well as being high in protein. I enjoy offal and would definitely recommend trying to consume at least 100g – 400g of some sort of offal on a weekly basis. As a bonus, it tends to be cheap and you may even be able to barter with your local butcher to get it at a lower price!

#7 – Skyr

If you tolerate dairy well, then skyr is probably your best high protein yoghurt. It has a unique texture and is almost purely protein with a minimal amount of sugars. You can get it in all sorts of flavours at the supermarket and at one point, I remember mixing honey, berries and cacao powder with it. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it since it’s has a very different texture and flavour profile compared to your typical yoghurt but it’s worth trying.

Greek yoghurt and similar yoghurts are also great alternatives!

#8 – Cottage Cheese

Alongside skyr, cottage cheese, the typical bodybuilder’s food is a great option. Again, it has an odd texture and not everyone likes it, but if you like the taste and enjoy eating it on its own or with other foods I’d give it a go. You can try mixing it with eggs to make a cottage cheese omelette. At one point I quite liked having it with steamed vegetables (weird, I know) since the coolness of it would help take the heat out of the vegetables.

#9 – Whey Protein Powder

Simple and portable, you can buy whey protein powder from pretty much anywhere now. Just have a shaker, add a scoop of protein powder and some water to it and voila, you have a protein shake with 20g protein.

#10 – Collagen Powder

Collagen is a bit different in the sense that it’s not used for building muscle, but rather collagen can be used for improving tendon, ligament and bone healing. The easiest way to take it is probably with collagen powder. However, there are plenty of other sources.

Bones are the best natural source of collagen and can be boiled and simmered to produce a bone broth which is rich in collagen. You could also eat collagenous tissue such as animal skin or eat the white crunchy caps of chicken bones. They are also full of collagen.

#11 – Mince Meat

You can buy mince meat at a range of different fat percentages, generally from 5% to 20%. Whilst the leaner meat tends to be more expensive, all selections of mince meat are viable options to increase your protein intake. Some even say on pack that they will contain a certain percentage of collagen protein.

#12 – Sausage Meat

The same applies to sausage meat as with mince meat although sausages tend to be fattier. However, you can buy lean sausage meat.

#13 – Bacon

Bacons nutritional profile has a nice balance to protein and fat. Depending on the type of bacon you buy, you’ll get either more protein or more fat. Either way, bacon is a great tasty option for increasing your protein intake and it tastes delicious when paired with eggs or a good fry up!

#14 – Bone Broth

Bone broth can either be made from scratch by boiling and simmering bones for a long period of time or bought. It’s a great option for those looking for a tasty hot beverage which is rich in collagen. However, note that the protein in collagen and bone broth are not substitutes for other animal proteins. The other animal proteins are optimal for building and maintaining muscle.

Plant Protein

#1 – Beans and Rice

Beans are popular due to being one of the plant foods higher in protein, the only thing is, they are an incomplete protein. This means they are lacking in certain amino acids. If mixed with rice, they can become a complete protein due to the amino acids which rice provides. This option is more carb-focused, but still viable for obtaining protein.

#2 – Seitan

This is one of the few plant proteins which is still quite new to most people. It’s formed by mixing gluten with herbs and spices before hydrating it with water or broth and simmering it. However, it’s not a complete protein on its own. For that reason it tends to be cooked in a soy-rich broth in order to add the missing amino acid, lysine, to the product.

#3 – Mycoprotein

Mycoprotein, sold under the name ‘Quorn’ is a meat-substitute which is made by feeding fungus. The end product is usually bound together using egg whites or milk so it’s not always vegan, but nevertheless it remains a high protein option. Personally, I think the process of creating mycoprotein is quite wasteful due to the resources used to feed the fungus so I prefer other protein sources.

#4 – Soy Products

Soy is one of the few complete plant proteins out there. It comes in many forms such as natto, tempeh and tofu. Tofu is the most well known and if in doubt about which tofu to buy, the firmer the tofu, the higher the protein content.

#5 – Soy And Pea Protein Powder

Both soy and pea protein powder have a strong amino acid profile making them almost as efficient as whey when it comes to utilising the protein from these powders. If you don’t eat animals, then these two powders are great options for a protein dense snack.

#6 – Quinoa

Quinoa is a complete plant protein which is easy to cook. Rinse the quinoa before putting it in a pan. Add roughly three times the amount of water to quinoa in weight e.g. 300g water to 100g quinoa and bring the water to a boil. Once it’s at a boil, bring down the temperature and leave to simmer for 15 – 18 minutes. Don’t forget to stir and add salt!


Thanks for reading! If you found this post informative, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could share it on social media!

Further Reading:

10 Reasons To Add Tinned Sardines To Your Diet

Whey Hey! The Benefits Of Whey Protein

My Thoughts On Finding Your Optimal Diet

Why You Should Eat Collagen


References:

24-Week Study on the Use of Collagen Hydrolysate as a Dietary Supplement in Athletes With Activity-Related Joint Pain

An Abundant Supply of Amino Acids Enhances the Metabolic Effect of Exercise on Muscle Protein

Collagen Hydrolysate for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Disorders: A Review of the Literature

Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial

Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review

Effect of the Novel Low Molecular Weight Hydrolyzed Chicken Sternal Cartilage Extract, BioCell Collagen, on Improving Osteoarthritis-Related Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review

Protein, weight management, and satiety

Revisiting the role of protein-induced satiation and satiety