For the average Indian fitness enthusiast, there are a number of fitness-related questions that loom with few concrete answers. One among them is which are the best and cheapest sources of protein in India?
When it comes to nutrition, protein is essential. Protein breaks down to give us amino acids, there are more than 20 amino acids present in the body. However, not all of these 20+ amino acids are produced within the body.
9 of them, known as essential amino acids need to be acquired through your dietary intake/food. It is no wonder supplement companies charge a premium for their products – your very existence depends on it (okay that might be slightly exaggerated).
If you’re like me or the average Indian seeking value at the best price, then you want to know just one thing.
Which are the cheapest sources of protein in India?
If you are a college student, young professional or someone new to the world of health and fitness then don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
Since the Indian diet does not contain many ingredients that western foods contain the options available are different and not so known.
A bulk of the Indian population is vegetarian and there is a misconception that vegetarians cannot meet their protein requirements. Well, warm-up for some BRAIN GAINS because not are we only going to debunk some myths but also cover the cheapest protein sources in India giving you the best bang for your buck. Whether you’re in college, short on a budget, or simply do not have the know-how, your excuses and knowledge gaps end here.
Without any further ado, here are the cheapest sources of protein in India. The values of protein per 100 grams of weight.
1. Chicken Breast (0.79g Protein / Rupee)
A serving of chicken breast has 80% protein and 20% fat which provides you 31 grams of protein, 3.6 grams of fat, and provides 165 calories. However, not every part of the chicken is created equal and does not offer the same nutritional content. You should stick to leaner parts of the chicken such as the breast and avoid eating the skin of the chicken as it is high in fat. Chicken breast costs about Rupees 390/kg. Making it Rs.39 per 100 grams, this gives you 0.79g of protein per Rupee spent.
2. Eggs (1.2g Protein / Rupee)
Eggs are undoubtedly the most popular food for protein aspirants. Each egg contains just 70 calories. One serving is anywhere from 2-3 eggs. Without the yolk, this gives you a minimum of 12 grams of protein. Two servings are ideal for a meal that is both filling and nutritious. Eggs are also known to have the highest digestibility, which gives you the best value for money. Depending on where you purchase them, the price will vary. Assume you pay Rs.60 for a dozen that makes it Rs.5 an egg. For 3 eggs that makes Rs.15. Hence egg whites give you 0.8 of protein per rupee (excluding the yolk). If you consumed the yolk which is an additional 2g of protein then you get 1.2g of protein per Rupee.
3. Fish (0.6g Protein / Rupee)
There are a variety of fish on the market that you can choose from. Budget varies drastically and it’s better to work around what you are used to. As a general rule – the whiter a fish is the higher its protein content. Tilapia (a freshwater fish) contains nearly 26 grams of protein per 100 grams. You can also choose Indian Salmon, commonly known as Rawas, which gives you about 24 grams of protein per serving. Fish also contains healthy fats that improve your heart’s efficiency and ensure smooth functioning. Assuming you buy fish at Rs.600/kg then you pay Rs.60 per 100g. Fish would then give you 0.6 g of protein per Rupee. This makes it just half as rich as eggs are with the yolk but contains many essential fats, such as Omega B-3 that your body requires.
4. Paneer (Cottage Cheese) (1.2g Protein / Rupee)
Paneer, a common product across India, is fairly reasonable to buy. If you find market rates expensive you can make panner at home. For best results use low-fat milk to make your paneer, boil it, mix a dash of lemon and there you have it. A single serving gives you 23 grams of protein. Paneer does have 21 grams of fat in each serving so the calories can rack up quickly. Assume you buy paneer for Rs.180/kg then you get 100g for Rs.18. This gives you 1.2g of protein per Rupee.
5. Tofu (0.32g Protein / Rupee)
Tofu is a vegan food that resembles paneer, known as bean curd and made from soy milk. Tofu contains 8 grams of protein per serving. The food gained popularity due to its health benefits, which include low levels of cholesterol and low caloric value. 100 grams of tofu contains only 76 calories. You can buy tofu for Rs.250/kg making it Rs.25 for 100g. Hence tofu gives you 0.32g of protein per Rupee.
6. Legumes (beans) (1.0g Protein / Rupee)
Chickpeas are one of the more popular options, they contain 8.4 grams of protein per 100g. Kidney beans (Rajma) contain 9 grams of protein per 100g. You can also consider adding black beans to your diet which have about 15 grams of protein per serving. However, it is important to remember that beans have high carbs of nearly over 40g per serving. If you plan on adding beans to your diet you should account for them when setting up your macros. If you buy kidney beans for Rs.90/kg then you are paying Rs 9 for 100g. This means you get 1.0g of protein per Rupee.
7. Lentils (Dal) (1.4g Protein / Rupee)
Moong dal or mung dal is high in protein giving you 24 grams per serving. Eat dal with rice/chapati or even make it into a sweet dish, although it isn’t recommended if losing weight is your goal. Tur/toor dal (Pigeon pea) is another common dal that offers you 22 grams of protein per serving. It is important to factor in the carb content when consuming these lentils. Like beans, they can contain over 40 grams of carbs per serving. Masoor dal has 230 calories per serving and gives you 17 grams of protein along with 15 grams of dietary fibre. It’s no wonder we feel stuffed. Price varies based on location and packaging etc, assume you buy toor dal for Rs.150/kg then you pay Rs.15 for 100g. Then you get 1.4g of protein / Rupee spent.
8. Peanuts (2.6g Protein / Rupee)
Peanuts are great which give you protein and well as fats without the heavy carb content. Peanuts contain 26 grams of protein per serving along with 49 grams of fat. Be careful when consuming peanuts as they can rack up the calories quick. One gram of fat translates to 9 calories. That makes a single serving of peanuts contain 441 calories. Assume you buy peanuts of good quality and pay Rs.100/kg then you pay Rs.10 per 100g. This gives you 2.6g of protein per Rupee spent.
Can I rely on just one source of protein?
The answer depends on which source you rely on. If you are getting your protein requirements from foods such as eggs, fish or chicken you can manage. However, unlike animal produce, vegetarian sources of protein do not contain all 9 essential amino acids that your body requires. Thus making them incomplete sources of protein. You can read about complete sources of protein and essential amino acids on the Protein 101 article.
You can mix and incomplete proteins which are high in one amino acid but low in another with other sources of incomplete proteins to strike a balance. By combining them you can include all 9 essential amino acids in your diet. Some examples in which you can get more complete protein is by consuming the following combinations:
- Corn + Beans
- Yogurt + Walnuts
- Brown Rice + Green Peas
- Nuts + Legumes
- Legumes + Seeds
With these foods, you can not only meet your protein goal while getting all the required amino acids but also keep yourself fuller, consume fewer calories, and have a clean digestive tract with the high fibre content. With these cheapest sources of protein, go ahead and mix them to your heart’s and muscle’s content! There are some more vegetarian sources of protein that you might want to explore.
Spend less and build more
By consuming the cheapest sources of protein foods listed above, you spend less of your hard-earned money, consume fewer calories, and waste no time in creating the best nutrition plan for yourself. Above all, you can look leaner and build more muscle! Even the best protein sources don’t guarantee results.
Remember, eat right, train hard, and rest adequately. A moderate but consistent caloric surplus or deficit will ensure you reach your goal. After all, fitness is a lifestyle, not a destination.