It’s no secret that most men typically don’t fear protein. In fact, they often embrace it, using high protein diets as a way to increase muscle mass and bulk up. Plus, loading up on protein best keeps their hunger at bay throughout the day and gives most meals that heartier texture. Yet, sometimes, men simply end up choosing the wrong sources of protein.
Yes, there are some options out there that aren’t ideally the best, such as greasy hamburgers or fried chicken. Or, on the flip side, they may just overdo it on animal protein altogether, skimping on those vegetarian and vegan sources. And for the meatless men, they may not be getting enough protein, due to uncertainties about exactly how to include more in their diets.
So in order to help all the guys out there out, we went ahead and consulted the experts to round up the best sources of protein for men, as part of a healthy diet. And while you’re making these changes, be sure to try out the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Lean proteins help keep you fuller longer and play an important role in maintaining and building muscle, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from some chicken.
“Chicken is a lean source protein meaning it’s high in protein (30 grams per 3.5-ounce serving!) and low in fat,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. It’s always a good idea to get in enough of the leaner stuff in a meal to help prevent going overboard on the heavier, higher-fat meats, like red meat. You can still eat red meat, but just in moderation!
In addition to being a great source of protein, tuna also contains vitamin D and omega-3s. Adequate vitamin D levels have been linked to a lower risk of some cancers, including prostate cancer. For easy meal prep, mix a can of Albacore tuna with chopped celery and a little plain yogurt to help reach the recommended two-to-three servings of fish per week.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that eggs really are a nutrient powerhouse. One large egg contains six grams of high-quality protein and is packed with a number of essential nutrients. Eggs are rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which support muscle function and help to build tissue and bones.
Greek yogurt contains twice as much protein as regular, plain yogurt, so when in doubt, always go for plain, Greek yogurt. Yogurt itself is rich in probiotic bacteria, which supports digestion and heart health.
Quinoa is a great plant-based protein for men. It’s high in amino acids, the building blocks of protein and unlike most plant proteins, quinoa is a complete source of protein. This means it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on it’s own. High in fiber, quinoa has also been shown to help boost metabolism.
When it comes to the “best” type of red meat, it turns out that grass-fed beef may be worth the extra cost. And why is that, exactly? Well, it’s lower in saturated fat and has omega-3 fats, for lower inflammation.
“Due to its rich creatine supply, grass-fed beef can increase muscle mass, and from additional nutrients, prevent health complications in men,” says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN. What’s more, as a rich source of iron, zinc, and selenium, grass-fed beef can help to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia, male infertility, and prostate cancer, she adds.
This is a great addition to meals for those men who follow a meat-free diet.
“Replacing beans with animal proteins can reduce your total intake of saturated fat and support a healthy heart and liver,” says Schapiro. Not sure how to add more into your meals? You can easily use black beans in a chili as a substitute for beef or pork!
“Plus, due to its high fiber content, beans can help us feel full, increase satiety, and add bulk to meals,” Schapiro explains.
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“Although wild salmon tends to be more costly than farmed salmon, in comparison to farmed salmon, wild salmon is typically higher in protein. So eating this fish can keep you fuller longer,” says Schapiro.
Additionally, wild salmon is higher in potassium, zinc, and iron, as well as lycopene, an antioxidant specifically important for men’s health, as it may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Cottage cheese is packed with protein and other essential nutrients that can improve men’s health.
“Just one cup of cottage cheese contains 36% of the Daily Value for selenium, which may support male fertility and prevent prostate cancer,” says Schapiro.
Cottage cheese is high in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12 as well, all of which ensure strong and healthy bones. For the perfect pre-workout snack, go for cottage cheese with berries to fuel your muscles.
If you’re not a meat-eater, lentils are another solid protein option to add to the mix.
“Whether you’re making chili or adding them to a salad, legumes [like lentils] are the perfect plant-based alternative to animal proteins,” says Schapiro. These plant-based foods are rich in folate, an essential vitamin that supports male fertility, she adds. You can even try making burgers with lentils for burgers that have a boost in fiber and are lower in saturated fat. Lentils also make for a great side dish with a grain, like quinoa. Talk about versatility!