Is a diet packed with protein always costly???

Here is how to increase PROTEIN in your meals as easily as possible while not wracking your brains to somehow ADJUST the exotic high protein foods in your grocery list!

Let’s include this really important food group in our meals while not having to see the budget shoot up. 🙂

PROTEIN should be a part of our meal at all times, irrespective of what shape we are in, at present. This macronutrient(protein) is often neglected in our diets owing to either ignorance or sometimes unavailability due to budget.

When I say PROTEIN is neglected; this does not mean it isn’t present in our diet at all. Rather, this means that we do not eat the recommended amount of protein on a daily basis.

Around 1 g of protein per kilogram of body weight is essential for all individuals whether they are physically active or not. (specifically 0.8g to 1 g per kg of body weight). This requirement increases beyond the given values when men/women are physically active.

NOTE: In this article, I have tried to provide you a list of good quality (complete) yet low cost protein options. Include them in your diet to gain muscle, strength and target healthy weight loss.

How is the quality of protein assessed??

First of all you must know that there are Complete and Incomplete proteins. Proteins which contain all 9 essential amino acids (ie those amino acids which are to be taken through diet since they aren’t produced within the body) are called Complete proteins.

Those proteins that lack in any of the essential amino acid are Incomplete proteins.

There are certain parameters laid down by scientists which help to determine the quality and hence different types of proteins can be compared and rated accordingly.

Biological Value (BV) is one such assessment. A high Biological Value of protein shows that all essential amino acids in that protein are taken up by the body and used effectively. (Whey protein has the highest BV= 104)

The other most common rating scale is PDCAAs (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino acid Score). This assess the essential amino acid composition and ease of digestion of any given protein. Maximum PDCAA is 1, which is true for most good quality proteins.

Taking into consideration the quality (based on the above parameters) as well as cost effectiveness of any protein rich food, I have noted down the best possible options for you.

 

1. Soya Chunks

Soya chunks are made from soya beans. This is one of the BEST and COMPLETE plant based protein found very easily in India and around the world. Soya beans contain all the essential Amino Acids needed by the body in contrast to other plant based protein sources which are mostly lacking in one or more essential amino acid.

Apart form containing a lot of protein they also have fiber, and moderate amount of carbs. They do not contain much fat since they are made from soy flour, from which oil has been removed. Lastly, they are cost effective too.

PDCAA score of SOY protein is 0.9 which is really good while the BV is lesser than that of Milk proteins and eggs.

100 grams of soy chunks contain around 52 grams of protein

Its cost: 20 rupees

 

2. Chicken Breast

Yet another great and cheap source of lean protein is chicken breast. This is the portion of chicken which is boneless and contains almost no fat. It is a great addition to your diet when you are on a journey of muscle gain and fat loss.

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In any case if you are thin meaning  you are underweight then you can include chicken thigh and wings since they contain some amount of fat along with protein.

Cooked (roasted/grilled) chicken breast weighing 100g contains 31g of protein

*(Skinless chicken) according to the National chicken council USA

Its cost : around 30 rupees (almost at par with paneer)

 

3. Whole Eggs

Eggs are a universal favourite food. They are not only used in breakfast but are also a  great cheat snack option. They can be used to make great dishes for lunch as well as dinner. Owing to their great nutritional value, their consumption is always emphasised in our homes.

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One whole egg more or less contains 6.2g of protein, fats (some saturated fats), and lots of vitamins (B vitamins, vitamin A, folate etc) and minerals (phosphorus and selenium) too. Although, eggs are a storehouse of nutrition, we will not discuss all the benefits they might provide since here we restrict our talk to PROTEIN.

Egg white, separated from one egg provides around 3.5g of lean protein (ie protein which contains minimal fat). For egg White protein, Biological Value is 100 and PDCAA is 1.

100 g of eggs contain 12.5g of protein.

According to the British Nutrition Foundation

Its cost : 15 to 20 rupees

(Amount of protein may vary a little depending on type of eggs, as 100 g of eggs may mean 2 eggs sometimes and sometimes 3, which may increase the protein content to 18 g)

 

4. Tofu

‘Tofu’ also finds its source in soya beans and so it is a high quality protein option. Its texture is similar to paneer/cottage cheese made from milk. This is manufactured by coagulation of Soy milk. It is easily available in the Indian as well as global market.

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It provides with protein, some fat, little fiber, some carbs and vitamins as well as minerals. Protein assessment of Soy has been mentioned above. The cost of ‘tofu’ is at par with dairy paneer.

100 g of tofu contains 15 g protein

Its cost: around 35 rupees

NOTE: Soy products should not be consumed by anyone who has Thyroid disorder. Also too much consumption of soy products may interfere with male hormonal balance since it contains phytoestrogens (compounds that mimic female hormone oestrogen). Although conclusive research has not been done on this but it is better for males to not eat more than 50g of soya chunks or 100 g of tofu in one day.

 

5. Skimmed Milk

Milk is known for its great health benefits, especially for providing us with lactose (carbohydrate found in milk) calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, fat and protein. Nevertheless this is another food (like eggs) whose consumption is emphasised since our childhood.

 

low cost protein 2Whole milk contains lots of saturated fat, so in order to focus on protein and gaining lean muscle one should go in for skimmed milk. The benefit with consuming milk is that you don’t need to invest time in making a recipe out of it. It is easy to drink it once boiled well or if it is pasteurised. Mostly people can drink it easily owing to its good taste.

Milk contains two extremely good quality proteins Whey (the liquid part which separates out while making paneer/cheese)  and casein (the solid part which curdles out in the cheese/paneer making process). Both these proteins contain all essential amino acids ie are complete sources of protein.

Whey and Casein have a high PDCAA score ie 1. But the Biological value of Whey is higher and it is a fast digesting protein while casein takes time to digest and get absorbed in the body.

Protein per 100g of skimmed milk: 3.4g

Cost: 5 to 6 rupees (25 to 30 rs of skimmed milk will provide around 15 to 16 g of protein)

NOTE: Hence,Whey protein is used to make high quality protein supplements. Some budget friendly options for Whey protein supplements are also available in the Indian market.

 

6. Paneer

This is also a really affordable yet good quality source of protein. As stated earlier, the portion of milk which curdles out leaving the watery liquid behind is casein. It is known as ‘cottage cheese’ or paneer locally. This is a high quality protein source having its PDCAA score as 1.

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The best quality protein source is Whey according to the protein assessment scale set by scientists while Casein is just next to it at the second number.

It is a slow digesting protein, so it will keep you full for longer and will provide good nutrition.

A caution with using paneer obtained from the market is that it contains good amount of fats too, since it is made from full creme milk. If you make paneer at home with skimmed milk you get pure and low fat paneer which will solve the problem!

Protein per 100g of paneer: 12 g

Cost: 30 to 35 rupees

 

7. Lentils and beans

Lentils or pulses as well beans are an integral part of Indian diet. They are highly nutritious, mostly containing carbohydrates, fiber, protein, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, folate, potassium and vitamin K.

Be it red, yellow, green or brown lentil,  kidney beans or chickpeas the nutritional profile is more or less the same.

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Also, some additional vitamins and minerals can be found (apart from those mentioned above) depending on the type of lentil or bean that is being consumed. 

The protein found in lentils and legumes is incomplete protein. Research reveals that they contain very limited amounts or completely lack in methionine and cysteine. Cereals on the other hand lack in some other amino acids but contain these two.

IMP: To get a complete amino acid profile in one meal it is advisable to combine legumes and lentils with cereals like rice or wheat roti.

100g of boiled kidney beans contain around 8 g of protein

100g of boiled chickpeas contain around 9 g of protein

Any kind 100g of cooked lentils/ daal (yellow, red or green split pulses) on an average contain around 9 g or protein

Cost per 100g : 15 rupees on an average

 

8. Low fat yoghurt

This is simple curd made from toned milk. It can be made at home, as well as it can be purchased from grocery stores. Since curd is a fermented product it has amazing health benefits for us. It really good for our gut health. Curd generally contains vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus. The macronutrient profile says that it contains moderate amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Minimal amount of fat is present in low fat yoghurt.

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It is a good source of protein whereby containing Casein and Whey proteins in it. (the same proteins that are found in milk). So, curd is a high quality and complete protein source. A great fact is that it is very easy to consume 100 or even 200g of curd in a go.

Addition of curd in your diet will not only add protein but a little more variety and taste while being budget friendly too.

Protein in 100 g of low fat curd: 3.5 to 4 g

Cost: 20 rupees

*** Given cost for the protein sources may vary a little depending upon the area you reside in and the vendor you purchase your foods from.

Hope, I could motivate you to add more protein in your diet without disturbing your budget much!

 

References:

https://www.nutritionvalue.org/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23867520/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872778/#B3-nutrients-10-00360

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/soy/#:~:text=Soy%20is%20unique%20in%20that,estrogenic%20or%20anti%2Destrogenic%20activity.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/soya-chunks-nutrition-benefits-and-easy-recipes/photostory/77145560.cms?picid=77145646

https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/chicken-the-preferred-protein-for-your-health-and-budget/the-nutritional-value-of-chicken/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/yogurt

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lentils

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/kidney-beans

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/milk

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-health-benefits-of-eggs

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126094/#:~:text=A%20medium%2Dsized%20boiled%20egg,and%20186%20mg%20is%20cholesterol

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