Protein is important for your body cells, hair and nails, for healing an injury, and building bones, muscles, skin, and blood. You need protein in your diet along with carbohydrates and fats, and vitamins and minerals. Getting enough protein from your food is not usually a problem. But getting protein from better sources is!
What’s the difference in sources of protein?
If you just ate steak as your protein source, you would also be getting lots and lots of saturated fat with it (the bad kind of fat!). Processed meats (like hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats) have protein but also have chemicals that may put you at a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer. So what are the better choices?
- Fish: Fish has heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids with its protein and usually has much less fat than meat.
- Poultry: With foods like chicken and turkey, you can take away most of the saturated fat by removing the skin.
- Beans & Lentils: Beans contain more protein than any other vegetable. Plus, they have lots of fiber that helps you feel full for a long time after your meal.
- Nuts & Seeds: One ounce of almonds gives you 6 grams of protein, almost as much protein as an ounce of steak. There are many different kinds of nuts to choose from, or you can try 2 tablespoons of nut butter instead.
- Whole grains: A slice of whole wheat bread gives you 3 grams of protein, plus important fiber. When choosing rice, pick brown instead of white, or try bulgur or quinoa.
- Eggs: A large egg has about 6 grams of protein and is a great breakfast idea. For weight loss, eat only the egg white, and have the whole egg (with the yellow part) only once a week.
- Milk, cheese, & yogurt: Dairy is a good source of protein. But be careful- it can also come with a lot of fat. Choose skim (fat-free) or 1% milk, and low fat or fat free yogurt and cheese. But watch out for added sugars in some kinds of yogurt.
Remember, since different kinds of foods have different kinds of protein, you should try to eat a variety of proteins throughout the week!