Proteins provide the building blocks needed for growth and repair of all the body's muscles and organs. Getting adequate protein is essential for good health. Fortunately, it is not difficult to do this if you eat largely unrefined foods and at least two or three foods high in protein daily.
Choose protein foods by the company they keep. Cheese omelets, hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizzas are all good protein sources, but they are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Examples of healthier protein choices include:
- Legumes (e.g., peas, beans, lentils, and garbanzos) which are cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and high in protein, fiber, and other key nutrients such as folic acid
- Tofu and soy meat alternates such as Grillers® and other vegeburgers made from soy and other plant proteins
- Nuts and seeds, which help protect the health
- Fish, which has a healthy fat and is protective against heart disease
- Skinless chicken (most of the fat is under the skin)
Most Americans get adequate protein but need to make leaner (less saturated fat) choices. MyPyramid.gov (USDA) recommends at least 6 ounces of high protein foods daily. Here are serving examples of one-ounce equivalents:
- 1 oz lean meat, skinless poultry, or fish
- ¼ C cooked beans or tofu
- 1 Tbs peanut or almond butter
- ½ oz nuts
- 1 egg
- ¼ C cottage cheese
- ½ veggie griller or vegeburger
Vary your choice of protein foods. Try to include a healthy protein at every meal. Choose more beans, nuts, seeds, fish, veggie burgers, vegetarian chili, or other meat alternates, instead of just meat. These healthier protein foods are usually lower in calories and rich in fiber, are good sources of healthy fats, help improve satiety, and contain nutrients that help protect your health. They can also provide variety and can be fun to eat.