Stay lean & keen with plenty protein

Posted on November 1, 2011

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Yesterday I spent time on some nutrition sites on a quest to work out my food plan for Racing the Planet Nepal.  Being a self-supported race, I need to keep the weight in my pack to the absolute minimum (permitting of course, the odd miniature Clarins treat) but at the same time, take the most calorie-dense foods possible. And whilst nuts, chocs and energy bars are more-ish by day and freeze-dried meals just about digestible by night, protein will play an important role at the end of each stage to help repair the muscles for the stage that follows.

With this in mind, I went on a search for the top ten most protein rich foods. We all know that protein is king when it comes to sport and fitness but all to often, me included, we end up eating the same old foods week in week out … I ought to be a shareholder in John West tuna going by how much I get through.

First, back to basics.

Protein is a macro-nutrient composed of amino acids that is necessary for the proper growth and function of the body. While the body can manufacture several amino acids required for protein production, a set of essential amino acids needs to be obtained from animal and/or vegetable protein sources. There is no shortage of debate over the amount of protein we should consume per day … a general rule for athletes or very active sports people is a gram for every kilo of body weight.  Any excess consumed is turned into energy by the body but again, there is much debate over whether the excess is harmless or causes strain on the liver.

Top ten protein rich foods:

1: Cheese

Of all cheeses, low sodium Parmesan provides the most protein with 41.6 grams per 100 gram serving. It’s followed by regular whole Parmesan at 35.8 grams of protein per 100 grams. Other cheeses like Romano, Mozzarella and Swiss provide around 28-30 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. Softer cream cheeses, or spreadable cheeses, provide the least protein with only 16 grams per 100 gram serving.

2: Mature (Large) Beans

The older, larger, and more mature a bean gets the more protein it carries. Mature roasted soybeans i.e. Edamame (yum yum) have the most providing 39.6 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. They’re followed by mature Lupin beans (although not sure I know what these are) which provide 15.6 grams per 100 gram serving.

3: Lean Beef

To get the most protein out of meat, you need to choose lean cuts. Tope of the cuts is the top round of beef which provides around 36 grams of protein per 100 gram serving.

4: Roasted Pumpkin, Squash and Watermelon Seeds

Easy to get hold of in the Middle East, pumpkin and squash seeds provide 33 grams of protein per 100g serving. Watermelon seeds provide slightly less at 28 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. If you live in the UK and can’t find these in your local Tesco, try a Middle Eastern or East Asian specialty store. Otherwise, just save any pumpkin, squash, and watermelon seeds you have and roast them yourself.

5: Lean Meats (Chicken, Lamb, Pork, Turkey)

Most lean meats provide around 30 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving.

6: Fish (Tuna, Anchovies, Salmon)

Fish are already everyone’s best friend for the value of their fats and oils. As for protein, Yellowfin Tuna provides the most with 30 grams per 100 gram serving. It’s followed by Anchovies (29g), Salmon (27g), Halibut (27g) and Snapper(26g).

7: Fish Eggs (Roe and Caviar)

Caviar and fish eggs are most often eaten as a garnish or spread. Fish roe (eggs) provides around 28.6 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving whilst caviar provides 24 grams of protein. Chicken eggs, by comparison, only offer 13.6 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving.

8: Yeast Extract Spread (aka: Marmite)

You either love it or you hate it!  This spread not only packs a whole lot of protein – 27.8 grams per 100 grams but is also a fab source of Vitamin B12.

9: Lobster and Crab

Crab and lobster are most commonly served baked, steamed or in bisque (fyi … Rostang at Atlantis does the best lobster bisque in the UAE). A 100g serving of lobster contains 26.4 grams of protein. Crab provides a little less with 19.4 grams per 100 gram serving.

10: Lentils, Pulses and Peanuts

Lentils, pulses and peanuts (i.e. legumes) are a great vegan source of protein. Peanuts provide the most protein with 23.7 grams per 100 gram serving. Lentils provide the more protein when consumed raw (25.8 grams per 100 gram serving) than 9 grams per 100g serving cooked.

So there you go.  I like this list.  Foods like lentils, pulses and lean meats are easy to buy, store and cook. The likes of lobster, crab and caviar make the occasional brunch a prerequisite to good health … and giant bowls of edamame should practically be on prescription. Bear all in mind when next hitting the aisles at Spinney’s.

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