Are You Eating Enough Protein?

Protein is an important building block to keep a healthy diet. It builds muscle, maintains bone density, and keeps cells in good working order. How much you need depends on several things, including age and activity level.

To ensure you get enough, take your weight and multiply it by 0.6. An active 130-pound woman needs about 78 grams a day.

More: How to Pack in Your Protein

Not sure how to get enough protein? There are several ways to get high-quality protein into your diet. Here's how:

Beans and Grains

One cup of legumes or beans such as raw peanuts (37g), soybeans (29g), or lentils (15g) as well as whole grains such as amaranth (28g), oats (26g) and quinoa (22g) are not only a rich source of low-fat protein, but high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Nuts and Seeds

Pumpkin (10g), sunflower (8.5g) or sesame seeds (6g) as wells as almonds (6g), cashews (6g) and pistachios (6g) contain the most protein per serving (1/4 cup) as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are a healthier alternative to saturated fat.

More: The Importance of Nuts and Seeds

Fish and Shellfish

Three ounces of bluefish (105g), nine large clams (23g) and a can of light tuna in water (42g) pack the biggest protein punch. Although 3 ounces of halibut (17g), salmon (17g) or mackerel (15g) don't contain as much protein, they are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegetables

According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets are nutritionally adequate for all stages of life and athletics. Vegetables are low in fat and rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. The richest sources of vegetable protein per cup are tofu (22 grams), tempeh (19g), broccoli rabe (15g), spinach (15g) and asparagus (12g).

Meat

Grass-fed beef contains less fat than grain-fed beef and is a rich source of zinc, which is essential for immune function. Four ounces contains 20 grams of protein and 32 percent of the daily value for zinc.

More: Protein Sources: Which One Is Right for You?

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About the Author

Judi Sheppard Missett

Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. Today the program boasts more than 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in all 50 states and 32 countries. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people. Benefits include increased cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility, as well as an overall "feel good" factor.  For more information go to jazzercise.com or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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