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How To Choose Your Protein Wisely

Protein is essential for our bodies to build strong muscles, bones, cells and skin. The reason we need to make sure that we eat sufficient protein every day is that our bodies are not able to store it as they can store carbohydrates. Is All Protein The Same?

According to Massachusetts General Hospital clinical nutritionist, Alexa Schmitt, RD, the determining factor between good and bad protein is the content of saturated fat. Proteins that contain high levels of saturated fats can increase your cholesterol level; and this increases your risk of heart disease. The majority of adults need to eat between 40 and 65 grams of protein every day. While most Americans eat more protein than their bodies need, it is not necessarily good protein. So what are the smartest choices of protein sources?

Good Sources Of Protein

These are examples of the choices of protein you most likely currently encounter each day.

Meats. According to Schmitt although steak, chicken with skin and salami are all high in protein they are also high in saturated fat. For example, a 6 ounce steak contains almost your full daily protein requirement, but it also contains almost 75% of your daily intake of saturated fat. Does this mean you have to give up steak entirely? Not necessarily. Eating these meats only once or twice a week is the recommendation from Schmitt.

Lean Meats. Fortunately lean meats are a healthier option for those who really like their meat. Turkey, fish, chicken and beef that is 95% lean all still contain a very high level of protein but also contain far less fat, particularly saturated fats which can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Soy. Soy proteins are low in saturated fats and rich in protein. Schmitt recommends vegetarian meat alternatives like soy nuggets, veggie burgers, and edamame (baby soy beans) You should find all of these in your local supermarket. Edamame is generally prepared by boiling it lightly and adding salt, and is a common addition to Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Check the freezer section of your local supermarket for Edamame if you do not have an Asian specialty market in your area.

Nuts, Legumes And Beans. All types of beans are low in saturated fats and high in protein according to Schmitt. Garbanzo beans and chickpeas are an excellent addition to salads and in hummus. Consider spicy vegetarian chilli recipes for a delicious and healthier option to traditional chilli. You can also add legumes such as lentils and dried peas to stews and chilli. Another great source of protein that is not high in fat are nuts as long as you eat them in moderation.

Dairy. Schmitt says that although dairy foods are frequently overlooked as sources of protein, they are worth including. While some dairy foods are higher in saturated fat than others, Schmitt recommends low fat versions of Greek-style yogurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese. These are not only good protein sources, they are also easy and convenient snack foods.

Planning your meals in advance can help you to make healthier choices. By planning in advance you will be able to identify the foods that you eat too much of and you will be able to replace these with healthier alternatives.

Key Points To Remember About Protein

Bear in mind when you choose your protein sources that although you may get the same amount of protein from foods that are low-fat and high in fat, by choosing the food with the higher fat content you could be risking increasing your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Choosing to get your daily protein from plant sources and leaner meats can help to protect your heart health.

Mary D. Jordan / February 6, 2015 / Choose food wisely