Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 May

Top 10 Best & Worst Protein Sources (vegetarians take note)

SteakYesterday, I discussed protein a little bit, and it’s such an important topic that I think it deserves its own Tuesday 10 (Read all Tuesday 10 columns here).

In all the debates this year about sugar (carbohydrates) and hydrogenated oil (fat), we forget that protein warrants consideration as well. The wrong proteins in the diet will quickly sabotage optimal health.

It helps to understand that protein is a macronutrient. What we call “protein” is, in fact, a family of amino acid molecules. When grouped together in various combinations we get proteins. There’s no protein molecule hanging out in that hamburger; rather, the animal tissue is made of many different amino acid building blocks. Protein is just a catch-all term we use. This is why vegetarians won’t keel over as people once feared. However, that doesn’t validate the popular myth that plant protein is equivalent or even superior to animal protein. Plant protein and animal protein is not equivalent, for several reasons:

  • Animal protein is more complete and contains more essential amino acids – the amino acids we can’t synthesize in our bodies and thus require in our diets for optimal health – than plant protein.
  • Contrary to popular belief, dietary animal protein is consistently associated with greater bone mineral density and fewer bone fractures (PDF), while dietary plant protein is associated with lower bone mineral density. Animal protein may increase calcium excretion, but it increases calcium absorption to a greater degree, resulting in a net positive effect on bone health.
  • Plant proteins often come with plant toxins, while animal protein is generally harmless. That’s probably why plant protein consumption has been linked to increased disease risk and animal protein consumption has little to no effect. Heck, the plant proteins often are toxins themselves, as with the case of wheat gluten.
  • It takes more calories to get adequate amounts of protein on a vegetarian diet. Living on beans and tofu increases the amount of carbohydrates in one’s diet significantly (and unnecessarily).

I hope no one believes that anymore.

Here are my ten ideal sources of protein, and their popular but inferior counterparts.

1. Winner: Grass-Fed Beef

Loser: Grain-Fed Beef

The average cow is raised on cheap grain that will kill it after about six months (they’re conveniently slaughtered before this happens – but not always). Hardly something I want to put in my body. Grass-fed, organic beef won’t make the vegetarians happy, but this beef is rich in beneficial fatty acids that are missing from the factory-raised cattle. It’s cleaner, healthier, more flavorful, and richer in nutrients. And grass-fed beef is typically raised in humane conditions. If you eat beef and can get your hands on it, grass-fed is a must. It’s getting quite easy to find these days, but you can order online from many outlets as well.

2. Winner: Pastured Chicken

Loser: Regular frozen chicken

No comparison. Did you know chicken has flavor? Yeah, bizarre, I know. Chicken raised properly on pasture and allowed to eat bugs and grasses (not shoved by the cluckload into dirty factories) is rich in EFAs and is one of the best sources of protein available. Also, if you cover a whole one in salt, pepper, and garlic, stuff it full of herbs, rub it down with grass-fed butter or olive oil, and place it in a preheated oven, you’ve got one of the greatest dinners in the history of the world.

3. Winner: Wild Salmon

SalmonLoser: farmed salmon

Fish is healthy, right? Don’t even bother patting yourself on the back for eating salmon if it’s from a farm. Farmed salmon is produced in a way that’s the seaside equivalent of a chicken factory. As a result, the fish are often sick and infected. They’re fed cheap feed that does not yield the desirable omega-3-rich flesh. They’re miserable and full of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Stick with wild only. Most restaurants use farmed salmon, so you have to get a little aggressive about this.

Notice a trend here with my emphasis on good fats in protein foods? Source makes a huge difference in the quality of protein you get. Meat is – or was – a very valuable food because it’s so dense in nutritious fat and protein. What an efficient, rich source of energy! Helpfully, our modern factories have eliminated the nutritional value and left us with weak, flabby, carcinogenic, diseased patties and drumsticks. Hey, thanks, guys. (Although we consumers don’t get off easy: maybe if we ate less…)

4. Winner: Tuna

Loser: fish sticks and popcorn shrimp

I don’t think I need to go into this one.

5. Winner: Pastured Eggs

Loser: egg substitute and/or regular eggs

If eggs were meant to be eaten as mechanically-separated, low-fat, chemically-altered whites in a carton, the chickens would have done it by now. But an egg is a chick in the making. It’s rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins, and – for the calories – a lot of protein. Doubly so if your eggs come from pastured hens. Things like Egg Beaters are the result of food manufacturers exploiting fears based on grossly inaccurate health information. There’s nothing healthy about such unnatural products.

6. Winner: Greek Yogurt

Loser: Low-fat, sugar-sweetened yogurt

No comparison. The Greek stuff is richer, fattier, more nutritious and lower in sugar. Again, when choosing an animal protein source, choose one that also provides valuable fats to maximize nutrition. Don’t go for the conventional animal products that are high in chemicals, hormones, bad fats, and sugars. Yogurt isn’t a staple of my diet, but if I eat it it’s certainly not a plastic cup of sugar-infused strawberry dessert.

7. Winner: Shellfish

ShellfishLoser: Deep-fried and breaded clams and oysters

When anthropologists search ancient human coastal settlements, they invariably find piles and piles of discarded shells. Our ancestors weren’t gathering shellfish to make jewelry. They weren’t hoarding pearls. They were gathering them because shellfish, including clams, oysters, mussels, and snails, are sources of animal protein that also happen to be full of iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, omega-3s, and other marine nutrients that we need to thrive. And, since farmed shellfish are raised just like wild shellfish – in the ocean feeding off microscopic lifeforms – without any junk food input from humans, farmed shellfish are just as good as wild. Limit or avoid shellfish farmed in China, however, as the waters there run a little more polluted than other waters.

8. Winner: Whey Protein Isolate

Loser: Whey Protein Concentrate

I know, I know – I just got done saying how important it is to eat whole food protein that comes with other nutrients. So what the heck is whey protein isolate, a processed protein powder that’s anything but “real, whole food,” doing on this list? Ultimately, I’m about results. I’m about food with proven health benefits as shown through science, and the body of literature supporting whey protein isolate as a worthy source of protein is impossible to ignore:

Since whey protein isolate is higher in protein (the stuff that’s giving all the health benefits) than whey protein concentrate, eat the former if you can get it.

9. Winner: Liver (from grass-fed or pastured animals)

Loser: Tofu

Though it’s known primarily as nature’s multivitamin because it contains ample amounts of vitamin A (important for bone health and testosterone production), copper (important for heart health), choline (important for liver health), folate (important for brain and fetal health), and B-vitamins (important for almost everything), people tend to forget that liver is a rich source of protein, too. It might look weird to compare it to tofu, but since nothing else really compares to liver – and tofu is really easy and really fun to pick on – I went with the soy-based meat alternative.

10. What’s your favorite protein source?

Give me a shout, Apples. What protein do you favor? What have I left out? (To comment, simply click on Comments below to log in to the blog forum, or proceed directly to the forum.)

Note: “Cows’ milk is for baby cows,” the saying goes. You’ll notice I left cheese and milk out of this list. While I like a good aged gouda, I wanted to make this list as all-inclusive as possible – and potentially allergenic dairy proteins are not suitable for everyone. Raw dairy is healthy and enjoyable for many people who can tolerate it, but generally, I think quality meat works better for more people than quality milk. Cheese, the fermentation of which denatures some of the problematic components while increasing beneficial nutrients, is generally better tolerated than milk, especially aged cheeses like gouda. Cream and butter are fine in cooking (or coffee), because I don’t fear saturated fat, but I am concerned about folks who substitute nutritious meat with highly-processed cheese.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I believe in ‘all things in moderation’, and that God put animals on the earth for us to eat, not just leafy plants. I can’t afford money or time to seek out organic or more unusual foods. People in my situation can still eat reasonably healthy by simply making smart choices and avoiding overly processed foods when possible. I don’t have the time to get caught up in nit-picky things like organic foods and humane treatment of food animals when GETTING to eat is the issue.

    Valerie wrote on October 23rd, 2009
    • mm.. kay i have to be a bit real without by any means trying to be rude here..

      but.. personal opinion..

      most likely, nothing was “put” here, or came to be, specifically to be eaten. yeah.? maybe for instance considering the fact that while this planet was in it’s early stages of development plants pretty much ruled campus. and quite selflessly at that. 😉

      again. i vote balance.

      in ultimate relation and cooperation to and with compassion, wisdom/understanding, selflessness, and joy.

      joy definitely falls under my “of utmost importance” category. but paired with the (above) list of aspects to consider.. compassion* foremost. for me anyway. 😉


      Sophie wrote on August 5th, 2010
      • “most likely, nothing was “put” here, or came to be, specifically to be eaten. yeah.? maybe for instance considering the fact that while this planet was in it’s early stages of development plants pretty much ruled campus. and quite selflessly at that. ”

        Actually, that is big part of life. We are born, we eat, we reproduce, and we die. Sorry, but it is true. If things weren’t put here to eat then why do we need to eat?

        Brian wrote on August 14th, 2010
      • Must be a Jeremy Bentham fan. Now if we’d only drop compassion bombs, our enemies wouldn’t attack us.

        Joshua wrote on November 6th, 2011
    • Sorry that you may think organic food or more importantly humane food is “nit-picky”. Getting to eat doesn’t mean we need to subject what we consume to a life of misery and horrible death. I think if you get rid of processed foods, and perhaps not eat meat every day you would find it is affordable. I have actually found my grocery bill has come down. I follow the paleo diet but choose other forms of protein. Yes you need to plan but following a paleo lifestyle needs planning and preparation.

      Liz wrote on January 11th, 2012
  2. how about Soy Bean?

    Jeff wrote on November 8th, 2009
    • Wow, 10? A sample size of 10 doesn’t help your argument because things like. I dunno, GENETICS plays a role. Carl Lewis could have lived off tree bark, popsicles, and Mike n’ Ikes and probably would have won all of those gold medals for all we know. Joe Namath? He could throw a football but he wasn’t a great athlete. He had the knees of a seventy year old (when he was thirty) and couldn’t beat a sea turtle in a foot race.

      Instead, look at athletes who ditch veganism/vegetarianism and describe how their performance skyrockets. This is well documented in the crossfit world, which is completely based on physical strength and endurance. There are too many intangibles in finesse sports like Tennis and Basketball, where one can rely on skill instead of raw athletic ability.

      Jay wrote on June 24th, 2010
      • True. Read about veganism and deficiencies. Start with Sturat McRoberts books. (I think he’s an ova-veg.) Someone convinced him to try veganism as it is best all-around. Yet for four years he couldn’t run more than two miles w/out feeling sick and fully winded. After a week of eating just six eggs a day he ran for five w/ease.
        The point was: genetics influence how our bodies react to foods. We are all different and our bodies react differently to different diets.
        And, crossfit asisde, why do meat eaters do better in everything? Why do runners eat so much beef and beef liver. Look under Fe (that’s Iron).

        Joshua wrote on November 6th, 2011
        • I’ve been a vegan for 2 years and I’m a varsity Cross Country Runner and regularly compete in MMA. You can get sick on meat, you can get sick on vegetables. How you put your diet together is really what matters. Nothing is right for everyone. You can’t stereotype diets like that.

          Emma wrote on December 20th, 2011
    • what was the point of this post.

      avi wrote on September 19th, 2010
  3. I read that Soy can decrease testosterone and increase oestrogen, I switch meat for tofu and grains…and it doesn t look great, I feel weaker,

    pascal wrote on November 17th, 2009
  4. I’d just like to point out that (as the author states) Quinoa is one of the few non-animal sources of all essential amino acids. Other non meat sources of all essential amino acids are: amaranth, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, buckwheat, hempseed, soybeans, and spirulina.

    Not all of these may get a one on the PDCAAS scale, but they all do have all 9 of the essential amino acids.

    As I’m looking to build muscle, I try to get a lot of protein from a variety of sources. Though I eat meat frequently, I do really appreciate sources of good protein that contain fat (as I get enough good fat from good meat sources) and these non meat sources are excellent ways of getting the extra protein parts without the other stuff.

    Eat a wide variety of natural foods (animals and plants) and you’ll be healthy. If you want/need to eliminate certain foods due to preference, religion or other concerns it may be necessary to be more informed about proteins…but for most of us, it’s enough to just eat a wide variety.

    craig wrote on November 25th, 2009
  5. I respect the decision of those who choose to be vegetarians, but get aggravated when they start talking about the cattle industry as though it is an evil empire. Most people who grow up in cities simply can’t understand what it’s like having to live off the land and they get caught up in all of the propaganda. I love animals and have been raised around more than most of you will ever see. I have more of a respect for animals than any vegetarian would ever give me credit for. I eat meat, of all kinds, vegetables, and fruit and have a deep respect for all of these things. Real cattlemen, cowboys, fishermen, and hunters know and understand that what we do is respectful and honorable both before God and our families. We eat what we produce so why would we want to produce something unhealthy. There will always be a few bad apples out there, no pun intended, but most of us work hard to produce healthy food for our families and the consumers. Vegetarians…..God Bless You, but quit talking about the cattle industry as if you had a clue what you are talking about! Come on out and get your hands dirty, eat a few egg yolks, and maybe even a juicy steak. If there is anything unnatural in there, we’ll work it out of you through your sweat and tears. The country air, the hard work, and the caloused hands would do you good! Then you would know what respect for animals truly is instead of a blind love for animals you’ve never even taken care of before.

    Ryon wrote on November 30th, 2009
    • Amen! I have several relatives that raise cattle and they all work hard to make sure they are healthy and get good grain and grass to eat.

      Glenn wrote on February 4th, 2010
    • I like your attitude. And your respect for animals. But there are more reasons to be a vegetarian than “The Cattle Industry is Evil.”

      Emma wrote on December 20th, 2011
  6. Finally, a well written, truthful and bold article. I am fed up of companies who try to promote unnatural products. We remove the yolk from the eggs, the fat from the milk, substitute it with chemicals and expect the body to consume it the same way – it just doesn’t work that way. That’s why we have an obesity problem and 1 in 5 children born these days are diabetic.

    I am especially interested in eating more Amaranth. I also have read a lot about Spirulina but haven’t tried it yet.

    Desi Fitness wrote on December 7th, 2009
  7. My favorites source of protein are hemp seeds, tempeh, spirulina, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tofu, red beans and vegetarian protein blend like vega (it’s based on a synegectic blend of 5 sources of protein ; hemp proteins, yellow pea proteins, brown rice proteins, flax seeds and chlorella)

    Seb wrote on December 9th, 2009
  8. You said that tuna is a good source of protein. While this is true, very few people are aware of the strains the world is putting on the tuna fish population and thus on the turtle population. I spent the summer in Costa Rica protecting sea turtles. Many species of turtles (including Green, leather back, etc.) are declining because their main source of food is tuna, and we are over consuming it. The majority of people reading this article are vegetarian or restrain from eating red meat. Because these people are conscious of animals (for the most part), I think that they should know how eating tuna affects the turtles. And how consuming tuna is leading to the extinction of sea turtles.

    Claire wrote on December 26th, 2009
  9. Great post. I’m not a vegetarian, but recently have only been eating meat on rare occasions and wondering how best to substitute my protein intake. It’s actually fairly easy if you’re not lactose intolerant and like eggs – easier than I thought. I wrote a simple post about it here: Vegetarian protein sources, maybe that’ll be helpful to someone =]

    leeric wrote on January 6th, 2010
  10. What about venison? My friend killed me a deer this past season. The meat is very lean and it was very inexpensive to get processed.

    Is canned tuna OK?

    I’m on a strict budget. I want to find economical sources of healthy foods (especially hormone and antibotic free meats) for my family. I can’t afford organic at the store.

    Stacy wrote on January 29th, 2010
    • I can hardly believe no one has mentioned sprouts! and other greens! They are extremely high in protein and can be very cheap, especially if you get a kit and learn to grow them at home. Great family project.

      Green drinks, soups, salads, dips… add to scrambled eggs, other vegs…

      kim wrote on August 14th, 2010
    • Great thought. Most wild animals are very good for you. Living in the wild they are mostly only subjected to natural sources of feed themselves. As long as they are not farmed on grain you will be safe to eat any animal and actually there are many studies to support that trans fat found in natural grass fed animals is actually very healthy. I incorporate a wide variety of wild animals into my diet.

      Brian wrote on August 14th, 2010
    • Also I forgot to mention if you live near farms, you can often get “organic” quality meats and dairy for very cheap. Especially if you buy in bulk. I went halves with a friend on a side of beef for 200 dollars. For me thats a years worth of beef. Well worth it!

      Brian wrote on August 14th, 2010
  11. I agree with some of what you say, but you seem to have pulled a lot out of your arse.
    Next time , do some research before spewing this up onto the internet.

    Ryan wrote on January 30th, 2010
  12. I am a vegetarian, and have no bad judgement or negative opinion about meat eaters as I used to be one. My diet consists of hemp seeds, grains including quinoa, beans usually black beans and healthier types. I do eat free range organic egg whites from farmers that I know, and from the food co op. I also eat 1-2 whole eggs including the yolk everyday/every other day. I basically have a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, carbs/grains, and rely mostly on eggs, hemp, combinations of beans/grains, and raw nuts and seds. for complete protein sources. Believe it or not I am building muscle, have no b-12,iron, protein, or any other common deficiency associated with vegetarianism/veganism, and feel grreat. Also if anyone is interested check out the following website… Robert Cheeke founded it, he is 29, and has been a vegan for around 14-15 years. This guy is in phenomenal shape as are his vegan bodybuilding friends who are all vegans also. Protein sources I also like are chlorella and spirulina.

    Brian wrote on January 30th, 2010
  13. I had a few grammar and spelling errors on that last one, I am tired, sorry about that.

    Brian wrote on January 30th, 2010
  14. So a person cannot leave a post without being sexually harassed there Mister Mike??? Want to meet me and say it to me directly??????? I expect you to answer me too!!!!!!!

    Brian wrote on February 1st, 2010
    • lol true! what a strange response.

      Sophie wrote on August 5th, 2010
  15. I would add that yogurt eaters should look for yogurt made with organic milk from grass-fed cows.

    I like egg whites, and there are organic versions that are simply pasteurized egg whites, and nothing else.

    Jimmy wrote on February 15th, 2010
  16. I am shocked that not one apple has mentioned chia seeds yet! After a decade or more of slow but ceaselessly deteriorating health (a lovely concoction of equal parts chronic fatigue, inflammation and sadness, all self-aggravating..), Christoper McDougall’s interview with John Stewart last August gave me the first feeling of hope in a decade or more that there might be something I could do about it. Not long after, I gave Nutri-Energetics a try, excited by the implications. But that story is for another time. You can always look it up if you’re the least bit curious. Returning to topic, my local library didn’t have a copy of “Born To Run”, so while I waited for my inter-library loan, I did as much internet research as I could regarding the tarahumara indians and their secrets for such staggering endurance and general well-being. It was at this time that I learned about chia seeds and their health properties (and also started running barefoot, predictably). Talk about a complete food! It’s really no wonder the aztecs, mayans, incas and other tribes of yore revered them! The nutrient analysis of chia seeds is widely available online and, thus, I’m not going to provide a run down here. What’s relevant to this particular blog post is that chia seeds are 19-23% protein… complete protein, no less! Making chia seeds a regular part of my diet gave me the energy to start running, which gave me the hope I might not be doomed for a life of pain, which got me curious about diet, which lead to a decrease in consumption of sugars, which partially convinced me of the power diet holds and so on. Then I saw John Durant’s interview on The Colbert Report around the time I was researching the Blood Type Diet and found the concept of paleo eating a lot more practical and comprehensive. This was a little over a month ago and is the reason I ended up here at The Apple. I’ve been eating and exercising according to Mark’s Primal Blueprint ever since and literally all of the chronic issues I mentioned above are all but gone. My bad case of sebhorreic dermatitis has cleared up and I’ve got a defined set of abs to boot (which has never really been a goal of mine, but I’m not complaining). Mark, I just bought a copy of your book about a week ago for a more consolidated resource on this stuff. Great book! I’m now convinced I’ll be in ridiculously good shape come summer and have signed up for a MovNat seminar in West Virginia with Erwan Le Corre. But again, CHIA SEEDS! I make a couple glasses of chia gel a day and cannot, truthfully, get enough of it. Has anyone else here made chia seeds a regular part of their diet or at the very least experimented with doing so? If not, check ’em out. They were more or less the catalyst for every measure I’ve taken in the last six months. Apple out.

    Satchel Paige wrote on March 8th, 2010
    • Hi Satchel, Yes… I too make Chia seeds a part of my daily diet! Every morning, along with some wheat grass too…and I love it! :)

      Holly wrote on April 17th, 2011
  17. Everyone should read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fannon. In it she talks about the science behind our food and challenges politically correct nutrition by taking us back to the roots of human food prep & diet.
    Quinoa is an awesome food but MUST be soaked for 12-24 hrs in water and a couple tbsp buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar-(acidic foods) as well as almost all other grains before cooking to allow us to digest them properly. If not it can actually take AWAY nutrients. This is how people from the past prepared foods like wheat, corn, oats, nuts…..…And-Your-Grains-Will-Be-Kind-To-You.html

    Also very important- Soy is dangerous!

    Jennifer wrote on March 15th, 2010
  18. You said:

    “Living on beans and tofu increases the amount of carbohydrates in one’s diet significantly.”

    Not quite. Beans do contain a fair amount of carbs, but tofu is actually very low in carbohydrates. According to the Nasoya website, a serving of their extra firm tofu contains 2 grams of total carb. Other brands are likely similar.

    Your Dietitian wrote on March 15th, 2010
  19. I need to correct something here, yogurt is a Turkish word. Because Turks invented it, they also named it. I really don’t appreciate people naming stuff “French” or “Greek” just to make it “cool” I guess. Which is, more than half of the time, all about marketing when it comes to “gourmet” talk.

    Shane wrote on March 21st, 2010
    • True, Greeks have nothing to do with yogurt, its Turkish.

      glyvenol wrote on September 23rd, 2010
    • Thank you. But we don’t know for sure who invented it and the two countries have had malleable borders for roughly 5,000 years. But all yogurt from that region are the same. And i agree with the “cool” thing. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood and everyone said “The best olive oil is Italian”. When it’s really oil pressed in Spain or Morocco from Spanish or Moroccan olives, shipped to Italy, tagged “Producto D’Italia” and triple the price because it says Italy. Ignorance is bliss. And it’s rife.

      Joshua wrote on November 6th, 2011
  20. Meat eaters suck,,period!

    melissa wrote on March 23rd, 2010
    • And apparently vegetarians can’t properly punctuate a sentence.

      Grammar wrote on May 24th, 2010
    • Clever girl. What will you champion next month?

      Joshua wrote on November 6th, 2011
  21. Good sources you listed, and the focus on good fats as well is something that is definitely not looked at enough. However, I disagree with you as milk is great as a source of protein as well as the need for vitamin D especially during the winter time. Also, your comment about peanuts and peanut butter being the “least nutritious nuts” is totally off, when talking about all natural peanut butter without added oil and etc, its a great source of fat and protein and almonds does not just beat it as you suggest.

    Ndr wrote on April 6th, 2010
  22. do something called RESEARCH before you spew your bs all over, your comments about egg whites, peanuts, and milk are a joke, try some objective display of info rather than your subjective info

    its called

    Lolscrub wrote on April 6th, 2010
    You make good points, but it loses all credibility when you bash farmed salmon without facts behind your argument. Farmed salon is primarily the Atlantic salmon specie, salmo salar. Salmo salar is the second fattiest salmon out of the six common salmon species. Farmed salmon are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acid. The highest fat salmon is usually king salmon, which is the least available wild salmon. Sockeye salmon and coho salmon are also relatively fatty salmon, but usually not as rich in fat as Atlantic salmon. Pink salmon and kets(chum) salmon are the lowest fat content salmon. An individual salmon may be higher or lower in fat than the average for the specie depending on what river the salmon is from, and the specific diet that fish had. There is some variation in lipid content on farmed salmon based on diet as well. On average, farmed salmon are very high in Omega-3 fatty acid.

    Chuck Anderson wrote on April 17th, 2010
  24. really like this article, quite helpful. i’ve always wanted to try quinoa and i plan on getting some asap!

    i saw a few comments on here about cowboys, and how the cows are treated on a ranch. cows are probably treated well there, but in the process of switching hands to the slaughterhouse, they aren’t treated as well. I’ve seen enough evidence to not want to eat meat, at least until the process is improved.

    as for milk products, why would it make sense to drink a product designed to make a hundred pound calf grow twice as large in a short amount of time? it may be a good source of calcium, but i think there’s alot better sources around.

    I also wanna add that it’s awesome that people are more concerned with how their meat is raised, and i respect that so much. but in addition, maybe the slaughter conditions could be improved? i believe each worker isn’t paid by the hour, and by going fast, make errors that contaminate the meat and cause suffering to the animals. It’s mostly the reason i’m a vegetarian myself, the suffering caused by the process of slaughter.

    whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous, this is a real good guide for protein-conscious people. Happy Eating! =D

    Min wrote on April 19th, 2010
  25. The BEST source of protein for humans is human breast milk! The answer is so obvious it is overlooked by so many people. A baby can double its weight in bone muscle and fat in a year only on breast milk. Think of how nutritious it is for an adult. I’ve been drinking human breast milk for over 45 years and never been sick a day in my life. I’ve done the Ironman in Hawaii, lots of marathons and can still benchpress my college max of 255lbs for 20 reps while holding my breath. Now that my poor mother has passed, rest her soul, I purchase breast milk from my patients who are lactating and need the money. A win win situation. So don’t be a food snob and turn your nose up at new ideas. Try God’s gift, mother’s milk today

    Dr. Ogre wrote on May 2nd, 2010
  26. Quinoa is NOT a grain. It is a seed.

    vegangirl wrote on May 4th, 2010
  27. Was told by my practitioner to dry fry my brown rice, THEN cook as usual to make it more protein friendly. Tastes good too!

    Nancy Betz wrote on May 13th, 2010
    • This is a great way to cook brown rice. I had not been able to make brown rice that was the right consistency before I learned this trick. I didn’t know that it helped nutritionally. Thanks for sharing!

      Jess wrote on September 17th, 2010
  28. There are a lot of replies so sorry if I missed it if someone already mentioned this…but I agree with the dairy aspect for the most part but I have been told by many people and have read many sources that say that low-fat cottage cheese is one of the best “complete” foods you can put in your body. It’s virtucally free of saturated fat, loaded with protein and calcium, and tastes pretty darned good. What’s your issue with cottage cheese?

    Kernman wrote on May 17th, 2010
  29. I dont agree with some of your sources of protein…cows eat grass and are full of protein..we dont have to eat animals to get protein….smh!

    Eliseo wrote on May 21st, 2010
    • I don’t know whether you read the list past #10, but Yogurt, Tempeh, Quinoa, and almonds aren’t animals. actually, neither are eggs, unless you eat the fetus.

      Avi wrote on June 24th, 2010
  30. Raw milk could but steroid drugs out of business- it is that powerful. I buy mine in PA and everyone should support this basic right to buy real whole food legally without Government interfrence.

    pjnoir wrote on May 21st, 2010
    • Raw Milk could PUT Steroid Drugs out of business… hate typos

      pjnoir wrote on May 21st, 2010
    • Lucky.:( But yes,raw milk is actually good for the body.The only reason milk can contribute to growth of cancer cells is when it’s the cheap processed kind filled with hormones and chemicals that shouldn’t be there!Besides,it tastes and smells better.:D

      Donnie wrote on July 18th, 2010
  31. Thanks for the roundup! It’s nice to see a list of protein sources that doesn’t overemphasize meat, soy, or dairy, and that only includes whole foods (e.g. no supplements or powders).

    I agree with other commenters that chia’s a promising food, too: a complete protein high in omega-3s that stores well and doesn’t require any special prep (e.g. grinding, soaking, etc.) to fully utilize its nutrients. Apparently farmers don’t need to use pesticides to grow it either, since bugs don’t like the plant.

    elaine! wrote on May 24th, 2010
  32. I’m very impressed with this post! It is really informative and chock full.

    I always want tempeh over tofu for the reasons you state about it being overprocessed but I can never find tempeh. Where do they sell it?

    Jo wrote on June 5th, 2010
    • traderjoes! carries tempeh. it’s cheapest there too. whole foods and pcc of course also carry it..

      Sophie wrote on August 5th, 2010
  33. why no penut butter? even organic unsalted no added sugar?

    Sam wrote on June 20th, 2010
  34. Wow – I just ate my dog and he tasted great

    jwb wrote on June 23rd, 2010
  35. You are incorrect in your assumption that there is not adequate proof that dairy products are harmful to the human body. If you really want the truth read books that include the countless studies done privately and not funded by large unions of companies that have a stake in the results going there way.
    Dairy products are acidic in nature and actually motivate the body to pull calcium from our bones, this is the bodies way of attempting to balance the PH levels within it. Not to mention there are many human tissue sample test results that show that not only is that true but dairy also causes cancer in our bodies. Consider that Breast and Prostate cancers are the two biggest problems we have. These are the reproductive systems of the female and male bodies respectively. A milk produced by the reproductive system of a species consumed by another species causes havoc in the consuming species. This is why you will never see an animal drinking the milk of another species of animal they intuitively and instinctually know better. We on the other hand have been brainwashed into thinking by big companies that make bigger money that it is healthy. NOT SO.
    Hope this makes people think. Love and Light to all of you. Namaste.

    Porsche Ackerman wrote on June 26th, 2010
    • there are certain things that are clear in the world and certain things that are not so clear. “drinking cyanide is bad for you” is an example of something clear. “drinking milk is bad for you” is an example of something that is not clear. you talk about the truth of books. which books? chances are someone made money off of these books as well. i used to work in a biochemistry lab. certain projects were favored over others because they provided more research grants (money). i’m not a hater of science. i think many good things have come from science. but, science is often held above other disciplines. some say it is pure and unbiased. but those who say this have never worked in the field. Louis Pasteur is praised by historians as the man who disproved the ‘spontaneous generation’ theory (that bugs, or whatever, can grow from nothing). but historians, like everyone else, often like to simplify things to tell a nice story. Pasteur actually conducted at least one experiment that supported ‘spontaneous generation’. He threw it out because it contradicted his belief and supported his rival’s belief (yes, even scientists have rivals). you say dairy products are acidic. Fine. So are lemons. So are oranges. Do they “pull calcium away from the bones” too? What’s wrong with calcium being pulled away from the bones? You will answer, likely, that calcium strengthens the bones and if calcium is removed, the bones become weak. Fine. But I have another (more optimistic) theory, that by pulling calcium from the bones, the body is encouraged to direct more of the calcium to the bones to replenish that which was lost. This in turn makes the bones stronger. My theory is analogous to muscle development. The muscle is damaged and then repaired to become stronger. All living things are capable of adapting to reasonable levels of stress. Alexander Karelin, perhaps the strongest wrestler there ever was, is reported to have drunk a 1/2 gallon of milk before he trained. 1/2 gallon! That’s the big milk carton they sell at the store. Have you seen that guy? He does not have weak bones. You say there are many human tissue samples that show that milk causes cancer. How do they show this? What – 1000 patients who had cancer drank milk every day? I bet I could find 1000 patients who drank milk every day that never had cancer. If you look long enough for a horse in the clouds, you will eventually see one. Or try it on one of those ceilings with a bumpy surface. You can see anything you like. Here, I have a personal example without doing any research. My grandmother drank milk and she lived until she was 96. She didn’t have breast cancer. She died from loneliness. Your reasoning about cross-contamination of milk from different species is, again, a nice argument, but it is just hearsay. “This is why you will never see an animal drinking the milk of another species…” I guess you’ve never heard of this animal: cat. they drink cows milk all the time. even still, animals are not my role models. saying that animals know something that humans don’t and that humans are stupid as a result is ignorant. i hope when you see an animal doing something, you don’t always try to copy it. for example, many animals, mammals included, will often kill their babies for one reason or another. do you know how dogs have sex? or praying mantises, for that matter? i waste all this time writing this because i used to think like you when i was younger and i hurt a lot of people because of my narrow-minded self-righteousness. the world is not so simple. isaac newton, when he was older, took a job at the money manufacturing facility. why? i have no idea. i came across this page because i was looking for information about protein. unfortunately, i was unsatisfied with the authors words. he talks about these eggs or these eggs. but, say i boil two different eggs and put them in front of him. i bet he won’t be able to tell the difference. he says these kind of nuts are bad and these kind of nuts are good. why? he just read it in some health magazine. omega-3 fatty acids: the new health buzz word. he doesn’t know what they are. what’s the 3 for? what is a fatty acid? how do organic chemists even come up with that diagram? i’ll give you a sardine, can you show me how in the world you came up with that diagram of sticks and letters? and further how you decided that eating those sticks and letters is good for you? nutrition is a ridiculous topic. everyone has different scientific evidence. these guys have scientific evidence that meat is bad. these guys have scientific evidence that meat is good. this is fda approved. this drug was recalled by the fda because they scientifically proved it was good, but now they changed their mind. meanwhile, the crowd turns their heads back and forth. they hear a convincing argument and they cheer. they hear their convincing argument refuted and they throw sticks. the one that gets a lot of people is, “eat natural foods. nature will heal you”. show us a picture of a waterfall. nobody lives in nature anymore. we get our food from the grocery store and sleep in a bed. you think natural foods are good for you? go eat the leaves of an oleander. nature is not so innocuous as your desktop wallpaper.

      rbj wrote on July 27th, 2010
  36. Turkey meat? How does it compare to what’s on your list? Thanks

    Gino Quizon wrote on July 15th, 2010
    • Good point. But very quickly processed due to low sat fat.

      Joshua wrote on November 6th, 2011
  37. Hi Mark, My wife bought your Primal Blueprint cookbook. I’ve used it a couple times so far and I like a few of the recipes quite a bit. Enough to make a second and third time. Thanks!

    After a discussion about Pork in Peanut Sauce with my wife, which takes your Primal diet to heart (and me, the ever-learning husband is trying to learn and adapt for her sake). She mentioned that peanuts are on ‘the bad’ list and to try Almonds instead because they are better from a nutrition standpoint. I agree that they are. however, where I don’t agree is that Almonds taste like peanuts and can be used as a substitute to peanut’s flavor. There are other foods that we have discussed, such as Cauliflower vs. Rice, Coconut Flour vs. Wheat Flour and etc. Probably the usual!

    I think what I am concerned about is that when it comes to flavor, Almonds and Peanuts create an entirely different taste for a meal. I love Almonds, by the way. I just don’t love them when I’m expecting peanut. :-) In my opinion, substitution of ingredients quickly delimits meals and eventually they just become a dietary supplement.

    So, is it bad to use Peanuts and other “bad list” foods as an added flavor to a meal?

    Nick Davis wrote on July 19th, 2010
  38. In protest to factory farms, about 3 months ago I gave up meat. About a month ago I realized that since my protest is based on animal welfare, it was hypocritical to not also give up dairy and eggs. Thus, my protein problem.

    Before you say anything, yes I know I can go to Earth Fare or Whole Foods and find non-factory meat and eggs. If I search, I might even be able to find these items with FoodLion or Kroger. Unfortunately, the prices are steep. When responsible farming becomes more main stream and prices become something the majority of regular people can afford, rather than something for only the elite/wealthy class, then I will add animal products back into my diet. (I’m not trying to convince anyone to do what I do, just explaining my choice.)

    So, I need good protein without animal products and without adding tons and tons of unneeded calories, carbs and fats to my diet. I’ve recently started working on losing weight (40lbs so far!) and working out regularly, so this protein is more important than ever and I can feel a serious difference (exhaustion, headaches, etc…) when I haven’t had enough protein. Since I’ve started eating enough plant-based food to get the protein I need, I’ve stopped losing weight. There has to be a happy middle ground.

    Soy isn’t the answer for me. Last time I bulked up my soy intake to get protein I skipped my period twice. Seriously. I was shocked. Anything that messes with my hormones that much scares me.

    I love Quinoa and Ezekiel Bread, but I think too much of that is what’s curbed my weight loss.

    Sorry for the long post. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Stephanie wrote on July 22nd, 2010
    • Real food (whether meat or produce) isn’t expensive – crap food is cheap. Artificially. For instance, government gives subsidies to factory farms to take care of building & insulating their filthy manure fortresses so that they don’t contaminate the water supply. Thus, what should cost *more* (raising cows on grain in barns instead of on free-growing grass) costs less, b/c you, the taxpayer, are subsidizing it.

      Pay the grocer or pay the doctor, goes a wise saying. I’ve seen its truth in my life and that of many I know and love.

      BTW, my family spends on our organic, pastured, locally farmed food, the same amount alloted to a family on food stamps – about $1/person/meal. There’s more info about it on my blog. It took some research up front to find the sources, but now that I have them, it takes little more time than our previous food-buying habits. You’re doing the research now to figure out how to live without quality meat – consider applying that time to figuring out how to live *with* quality meat!

      MamaGrok wrote on July 22nd, 2010
      • I appreciate the feed back and your advice on moving from a veggie/vegan diet to a humane, flesh diet. I will look into it.

        I am still hoping for advice on attaining quality, plant-based protein in my diet with less unneeded calories, carbs and fats.

        I did provide my explanation for wanting a plant-based diet in an effort to avoid people asking, “Why not just eat meat or eggs?” or, “Just eat meat. That’s the best way.” I will do the research you suggested and may one day add animal products back into my diet, but that is not my plan for at least the immediate future. I do see your point about the cost and am very interested in how you are able to feed your family on $1/meal/person.

        Honestly, after only a few months without meat, I don’t really have a taste for flesh anymore. Morally, I don’t have a problem with consuming humanely raised animals, but that doesn’t make (warning – I’m going to be overly dramatic here) eating death appetizing to me. I’ve just begun to think of ‘livestock’ more like ‘pets’ since I gave up meat and it would be just as hard for me to eat the little pig or hen that’s surrendered to the animal shelter where I work as it would be for me to eat Jojo, my cat.

        Stephanie wrote on July 22nd, 2010
      • That is probably the smartest post I’ve read all day. Good for you! To everyone else scroll up and read MamaGrok’s post one more time and repeat.

        Brian wrote on August 14th, 2010
    • Stephanie
      As far as protein goes – I have a bowl of oats with a tablespoon of flax seed and soy milk. Throw in a few walnuts and you have 1/2 your daily protein requirement and all of your omega 3 before the day starts. (No animals required – I have been a vegetarian/vegan for 30 years and always weighed around 130-137lbs at 5’8″). Any similar combination for variety is fine and I also throw in a couple of ounces of fresh fruit. It is high in unsaturated fat about (20g) fills you up and then you can eat lighter meals as the day progresses. Such as some Quinoa and veges etc. I even sneak in some animal free chocolate or candy most days.

      Jeanette wrote on August 2nd, 2010
      • Thanks Jeanette! That’s a great breakfast suggestion and sounds yummy!

        Stephanie wrote on August 14th, 2010
      • What a bummer — when do you have fun? do you have boyfriend who likes to eat like you? I wouldn’t want be him; ladies, make some good food for these guys, they can’t live on bananas & tofu. What is wrong with you kids these days — food is an inexpensive luxury, and living forever is just not gonna happen, so try to enjoy your lives without all this fussiness!

        Mrs. Troutdale wrote on November 10th, 2010
    • Hi Stephanie,

      Congratulations on the weight loss!

      I’m not sure if you already found the answer you were looking for? If not, one thing worth trying is using pea, brown rice, or hemp protein powder in cooking/baking. (You of course could also get some of the mixed powders (e.g. PlantFusion (pea, rice, artichoke protein)) and use them as a lunchtime meal replacer.)

      For baking, you can replace part of your flour with one of the powders – thus amping up the protein in the product without a major calorie boost. And, while cooking, you can sprinkle some on/mix some in here and there. (Google “baking with protein powder” and you’ll find a bunch of recipes that just need to be tweaked in the usual ways to be made vegan – but the concept is the same.)

      Personally I like pea the best as I find it to have a softer flavor. Hemp is very nutty. And brown rice, well, I always know when I added it to something :)

      Nutritional yeast is another option. It has a lot of protein and can be used to make a wide variety of tasty ‘cheesy’ dishes. (And, if you get the fortified yeast, you will get your b12 with it.) You can also simply use it as a topping. At 47 calories for 2 tablespoons, you get 8grams of protein. (
      Do note that some recommended that we don’t regularly eat more than one serving a day as it can increase uric acid. But, one serving is plenty to sprinkle on a salad or popcorn for a low-calorie, protein boost.

      Beyond this, I’m not sure if you’ve looked into seitan? It’s wheat gluten and is very high in protein.

      One other thing – you’re probably already aware of this, but just in case – since you’re female and exercising a lot, watch your iron intake. By no means do you need to worry about it – just be aware that pre-menopause females and athletes need more iron than others.

      Good luck! :)

      jason wrote on August 9th, 2010
      • Hi Jason,

        I didn’t know about pea or hemp protein. I’ve tried rice and I just can’t do that one. I’ll look around for the other two. Thanks for the suggestion!

        Stephanie wrote on August 14th, 2010
  39. I agree, I love almond butter. The one I have found is by far the best almond butter is Barney Butter because it is creamy just like peanut butter, not gritty like the other almond butters. I buy it at Whole Foods or on their website at

    staci wrote on July 26th, 2010

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