Protein – Health Benefits and Food Sources

Protein is made up of amino acids which are essential for growth and development; the building blocks for cells, tissue and muscle. There are 20 different amino acids all which provide their own unique health benefits. The best way to obtain as many of these different amino acids is to eat a diversity of healthy protein sources.

Protein is critical to good nutrition as it plays a role in just about every function in the body. It benefits the digestive system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, helps in energy production and in detoxification as well provides the building blocks for DNA, cells, tissues and muscles.

Characteristics of a Protein Deficiency

It is recommended that protein be between 10 to 20% of your diet, depending on your body composition and lifestyle. Protein deficiencies can result in weight loss, weak and sore muscles, decreased muscle mass and lethargy. Since amino acids are the building blocks of DNA and cells, wound healing is also compromised with low protein intake.

With ongoing protein deficiencies a person can also experience headaches, depression, insomnia, brain fog, anxiety and mood disorders. Digestive functions can also be compromised, causing painful gassy contractions since healthy digestion depends on the amino acids in protein.

Protein Food Sources

All meats are excellent protein sources, although pork is not considered a healthy choice. Eggs, dairy and yogurt are also great sources for protein. For vegetarians, legumes of all kinds, and some seeds and grains are also good sources of this essential nutrient.

Nutrient-Rich Whole Food Sources for Protein

This chart lists the best food sources for protein, along with that food source’s single serving size and the amount of protein in every single serving.

Protein Daily Intake Recommendations for Child and Adult

These figures are referenced from the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) 2005 system; used in Canada and the United States. The DRI system provides the minimum daily intake requirements of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for child and adult; males and females.

To find out what your daily intake requirements are for all of the essential nutrients, see the article Essential Nutrients and Beneficial Foods, posted January 16, 2017.

Try our Chicken and Dumplings recipe! Chicken is an excellent whole food source for the essential nutrient protein.


Written by: J. Marshall


•    Canadian Diabetes Association:
•    The World’s Healthiest Foods:
•    University of Maryland Medical Center:
•    Global Healing Center:
•    Body Building:
•    Healthaliciousnes:
•    Health Canada: Dietary Reference Intake Tables:
•    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services / Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI):

4 thoughts on “Protein – Health Benefits and Food Sources

  1. Kit

    Thanks for sharing this chart! Its really very helpful especially for people who are unaware where they can get their protein. Almost all of the proteins mentioned above are delicious and easy to cook. I love overnight oats for breakfast, salmon, quinoa and some lentils for lunch and dinner.

    1. return2nature Post author

      Thank you for the complement, I am happy to hear the information on this page is helpful. There are indeed other food choices for protein other than animal products, which is important information to know for vegetarians who are looking to get enough protein in their diets. 🙂

  2. Fitoru Fitness

    I am on Vegan Diet but I found it expenssive, I heard alot about the Keto diet which will consume foods that are higher in protein than usual.I am excited to try this diet.


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