The Importance of Protein

6 Mar

Protein foods include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds) sources.  We all need protein in our daily diet but the misconception that we need “red meat” in our diet is exactly that…a misconception.  Red meat is not the only source of protein.  Actually…it is probably the most detrimental form of protein you can be feeding your body.  But I will save that topic for another day.  This article is meant to educate you on how to include more protein in your diet.

Like anything else, if you don’t change things up a bit, things tend to get boring.  There is no difference with your food choices.  Vary your protein food choices.  Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week.  Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy and seafood.  Seafood (assuming you are not vegan/vegetarian) should be your choice of protein twice a week.  Choose those that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout and herring.

Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and extra lean ground beef.  Always trim or drain fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.  Try to stay away from deli meats as they are not only high in fat and sodium but contain nitrates as well which have been linked to cancer and other diseases.  Beware of deli meats that claim to be “nitrate free” because they may carry other ingredients which still contain nitrites or nitrates.

Eggs are good for you so eat em up!!!  One egg a day, on average, does NOT increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices.  They are considered to be the “perfect” protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids.  Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat , so limit your egg yolk to twice a week and have as many egg whites as you heart desires!

Try to eat plant proteins more often.  The most common question asked to vegeterians/vegans is “where do you get your protein from”?  There are plenty of options.  Did you know that beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black or white beans; split peas, chickpeas/hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts and seeds are all sources of plant-based proteins?  They are also naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber, which make them ideal choices.  Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry.  But a word to the wise:  nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories so be sure to eat smaller portions to keep calories in check.

Remember to always incorporate protein in every meal to keep them balanced.  Proteins help you feel full longer and will help you avoid eating unnecessary calories.

Have a fit and fabulous day!!

Lisa

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