There’s a lot of hype out there about protein. Do we need more of it? Should we be eating more protein than carbs? Isn’t protein better than carbs?
The good news is, most Americans are getting more than enough protein. However, they don’t always choose the best sources of protein. You need to focus your protein intake to seafood and certain types of dairy products. You should also focus on nutrient dense foods from plant sources as well.
What is a protein first of all?
This is one of the macronutrients we have been talking about on the blog lately. This is the least needed macronutrient in terms of what is needed most to least to burn throughout the day. However, enough protein is essential for body function. But you don’t want to burn protein – ever!
Proteins are amino acids and there are three types:
* Complete protein – all essential amino acids are there. Sources of complete proteins are eggs, meats, poultry and seafood. (Soy is also included).
* Incomplete protein – lack or don’t have enough essential amino acids. These are most plant foods, such as beans, peas, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables.
* Complementary proteins – these are two protein sources that are incomplete but when combined work together to make complete proteins. This could mean you eat a bean, and a grain and you then make a complete protein.
Sources of protein
* Beans, peas
* Dairy products
* Grains & vegetables
* Meats & poultry
*Nuts & Seeds
Why do we need protein?
Protein is a component of every cell in the body and allows for repair of cells and body tissues. So if you want to kep on growing hair, nails, muscles and bones – you need to keep complete proteins in your diet one way or the other.
So let’s get to it shall we.
5 Ways to Eat Enough Healthy Protein
1- Choose Nutrient Dense Sources
What the heck is nutrient dense you ask? These are WHOLE foods (not processed) that naturally have sources of proteins in them. Beans, peas, eggs (go with just the whites to avoid the cholesterol), fat free milk and dairy, lean meats, poultry, seafood (the best!) and unsalted nuts and seeds. These sources are NATURAL sources of food. Processed foods (those from boxes or bags that are made to be stored on a shelf) do not fall into this category. They may have added protein but it’s not the same as a nutrient dense source.
2- Seafood & Plant Sources
Choose seafood as the meat source, and plants as another source for proteins. Choose these over traditional meats and poultry if you can. There is less saturated fats and less cholesterol in most sources. That means you are protecting your arteries, heart and other risks for cardiovascular disease over time. Plant sources are healthy sources of fat, and protein so that’s even better!
3- Choose Fat Free or Low Fat Organic Dairy
There has been a lot of hype out there about fat free or low fat and “hidden sugars” in these products as fillers. Read your label ingredients folks! Avoid products with ingredients you don’t like, and choose only those that have a single ingredient. You will also see that many products, like sour cream, the full fat and the non fat have the same amount of sugars listed in the ingredients. That means you want to go with less fat. Animal fats in dairy products are saturated and considered fats that you should limit in your diet.
4- Fresh, Whole Sources – Not Processed
Choosing fresh seafood, and plant products are key. You want something that is 5 ingredients or less, and doesn’t have a shelf life and needs to be consumed right away. Added protein to boxed and bagged foods is not the same as a source with the nutrients in it. Your body is meant to process nutrient dense foods, not the chemicals and added fortified ingredients from a shelf.
Remember, you are likely getting enough protein in your day, but the quality of that protein and the fat sources that come with it are what should draw your attention to it. Be sure you are eating protein sources with low or no saturated fat, cholesterol and are non-processed.
Happy protein eating!
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