Protein deficiency is uncommon in the United States; however, protein deficiencies have been observed in some children, especially abused or neglected children; elderly people in nursing homes; and people living in poorer countries, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Symptoms of protein deficiency may include loss of muscle mass, fatigue, changes in color or texture of hair and failure to grow in children. Dietary protein deficiencies can be corrected by consuming high-protein foods. The NIH notes that an average person requires about 50 to 65 grams of protein in their diet each day.
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Red meat, such as beef, contains high amounts of dietary protein that can help correct protein deficiencies. Meat and other animal-based foods contain high-quality, or complete, proteins. Complete proteins provide our bodies with all nine essential amino acids. Garnering information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory, when selecting "beef, ground, 85% lean meat /15% fat, crumbles, cooked, pan-browned," the database indicates that a 3-ounce serving of 85 percent lean hamburger patty contains about 23.6 grams of protein. Choosing lean cuts of meat can help reduce dietary saturated fat and cholesterol.
Chicken is a complete protein that is typically low in fat, depending on how it’s prepared. Consuming chicken can help prevent or reverse dietary protein deficiencies. Searching the Nutrient Data Laboratory under "chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted" yields the stat that a half-cup of roasted, diced chicken breast contains about 22 grams of protein.
Fish is high in protein, low in fat and contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. However, pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, breast-feeding women and children should avoid consumption of certain types of fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel due to high levels of mercury.
Eggs contain high-quality protein that can help cure protein deficiencies. Thoroughly cook your eggs until they are not runny, to prevent salmonella food poisoning. One large egg provides about six grams of complete protein.
Although most plant-based foods contain incomplete proteins, soy is an exception and contains all essential amino acids. Soy is a versatile protein source that is used to make products such as soy milk, veggie burgers, tofu and tempeh.
Legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils and chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Although legumes, with the exception of soybeans, are incomplete proteins, they can be combined with other foods such as rice to provide all essential amino acids.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are sources of plant-based proteins, and contain fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids. Nuts and seeds make convenient high-protein snacks to help prevent or cure protein deficiencies.