Protein: Why You Need It (and Where to Get It)

Protein: Why You Need It (and Where to Get It)
When it comes to what we’re made of, the answer is: Lots of things. But by and large, our bodies are constructed of protein. In fact, protein makes up 15-20% of our bodyweight and, next to water, is the body's second most abundant substance – and it is essential for the proper functioning of our entire body:

  • Enzymes, skin, hair, nails, bones, and connective tissue are all constructed from protein.

  • Our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers our brain cells use to communicate (and thus serve as the basis for all thought) are made of protein precursors.

  • Because it is so valuable to the human body, our need for protein may even drive our hunger, signaling to us to eat more when it is in short supply. This is why adding more protein to our diet can help us to feel more satiated.

  • Protein tips the nitrogen balance in our body, a key factor in growing and maintaining lean mass as we age.

  • Protein may even preserve our brain. In one study, dietary protein intake was significantly associated with reduced likelihood of having high amyloid plaque burden in the brains of older adults.[1]

I eat meat, and I often speak of the benefits of protein-dense, low carb animal foods. I believe that eating these foods regularly is beneficial to our health in so many ways. Especially since chronically elevating your blood sugar can have many undesirable long-term effects. (You can learn more about my ethos in my book Genius Foods.)

Here I've compiled some great sources of protein along with some other nutrients that you may find in those foods. Here we go!


One egg contains about 78 calories and 6.3 grams of protein. As an added bonus, a single egg also contains 25% of your adequate intake (AI) for choline, a conditionally essential vitamin-like compound that is critical for healthy brain cells.


100 grams (or 2.5 ounces) of turkey contains 30 grams of protein. Turkey is also a powerful source of iodine, containing 23% of your RDI in the same serving! Iodine is so important for the production of thyroid hormone that table salt now has to be enriched with it, otherwise must carry a warning. But who needs enriched, processed foods when we can get our nutrients naturally from whole foods?


100 grams of shrimp contains 21 grams of protein. Aside from being delicious and versatile, you’re also getting more than half of your RDI for selenium in serving. Selenium, like iodine, is important for healthy thyroid function while also serving as a powerful brain antioxidant.

Grass-fed beef

The same 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of grass-fed beef provides 23 grams of protein, along with a host of micronutrients like zinc, choline, niacin, and iron.

Wild salmon

Aside from containing 25 grams of protein in a single serving, wild salmon is packed with DHA fat which helps to promote the growth of healthy new brain cells. Omega-3 fats (which DHA is classified as) also have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, which shows you that healthy foods have the potential to improve health via multiple pathways.

Protein powder

One 30 gram scoop of protein powder typically contains around 100 calories, and provides you with 20-25 grams of easy-to-incorporate protein.

Whether you prefer a vegan protein (which should be fully-fermented, multi-source and sugar-free) or 100% grass-fed whey protein isolate, protein shakes are a great, low calorie way of boosting protein intake, so that you can not only feel that sense of satiety but tilt your body towards positive nitrogen balance, to help grow and maintain lean mass as you age.



[1] Binosha Fermando, Rainey-Smith Stephanie R. Associations of Dietary Protein and Fiber Intake with Brain and Blood Amyloid-β. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, vol. 61, no. 4, pp. 1589-1598, 2018


Max Lugavere
Max Lugavere

Max Lugavere is a health and science journalist and author of the New York Times best-selling book Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life.

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