If your body were a machine fueled by food, then protein would be its top maintenance guy. Protein is the macronutrient responsible for tissue repair, allowing the body to heal as well as produce everything from bone cells to blood to muscle tissue—which is why bodybuilders are always scarfing down chicken breasts in such massive quantities.
But even if you're not looking to develop the world's biggest pair of beefy biceps, there are still many good reasons to up your intake of this essential macronutrient, from feeling more satiated after meals, to reaping cosmetic benefits like healthier hair and stronger nails. (And if you're dieting to lose weight, take note: Getting enough protein is key to ensuring the pounds you drop aren't precious muscle.) Here are a handful of easy ways to pack a few more satisfying grams into your day.
1. EMBRACE THE EGG.
Now that the FDA has officially withdrawn its objections to dietary cholesterol, there's no reason not to make the noble, protein-packed egg an essential part of your diet. One large egg contains 6 grams of the macronutrient.
2. GO GREEK.
The craze for Greek yogurt isn't just a boon to John Stamos's advertising career; it means that supermarket shelves are packed with this extra-thick yogurt that has more protein than its soupier cousins: 23 grams per 8 ounces. It's also incredibly versatile as an ingredient in baked goods or a higher-protein substitute for sour cream. (Just keep an eye on the nutrition label if you're buying it in little cups: The flavored varieties can pack a ton of added sugar, and because it’s poorly regulated, some types of Greek yogurt can have half the protein of others.)
3. FISH FOR YOUR LUNCH.
It's no secret that seafood is an incredible source of lean protein, not to mention the omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to improved brain function. But if you don't have the time or energy to bake a slab of fresh halibut for your weekday lunch, you'll do just as well with canned or cured fish, like sardines, tuna, smoked salmon, and smoked trout—each of which pack about 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving and go great on sandwiches or in salads.
4. SNACK ON SOY.
As delicious as chips and cheese curls are, they contain little-to-no protein—one of the reasons why it's so easy to eat and eat them yet never feel satiated. For a solid snacking experience with more balanced macros, you can get a salty-crunchy fix with roasted edamame (14 grams of protein per quarter cup.)
5. EAT GREEN.
Having a salad? Getting more protein is as easy as switching out the romaine for baby spinach or kale, or adding a cup of protein-rich veggies like peas, broccoli, mushrooms, or soybean sprouts.
6. GO PRO WITH POWDER.
Despite their reputation as meathead fuel, protein supplements can be a great addition to the average person's pantry. Made from whey, soy, and/or dried egg whites, a serving of powder can contain anywhere from 15 to 30 grams of protein (and around 120 calories, making it a useful option for dieters). Stir a scoop into your oatmeal to make it more filling and flavorful, blend with some fresh fruit and soy milk to make a balanced smoothie, or create a frappucino-esque concoction by blending a scoop of chocolate or vanilla powder with a cup of iced coffee and a half cup of milk.