In today's world, people are becoming more health conscious. People can become swamped with all the diet and food information available. There is a lot of information when it comes to protein. Proteins are made from chains of amino acids. Some amino acids cannot be made in the body, and are called essential. Since our bodies cannot make essential amino acids, we must get them from food.
How much protein do we need to eat? According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, American's over consume protein. Our problem isn't getting enough protein. Our issue is consuming the right kind of protein. The Nutrition Source by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health talks about protein. The reference states protein is a quality issue. For example, meat has many benefits, but it also contains saturated fat. Saturated fats are considered "bad fats". Certain fish contain "good fats" or omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can be good for your brain and heart. Protein can also be found in alternative sources such as: legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables.
It is suggested that we vary our protein sources daily. Examples of alternatives to meat can be found in the list below.
- Poultry - Chicken, turkey
- Seafood - Salmon, tuna, trout
- Eggs & Dairy - Low fat milk, cheese, eggs
- Soy Products - Edamame, milk alternatives, tofu
- Beans - Black, kidney, pinto,
- Peas - Chickpeas, lentils, split peas
- Nuts - Almonds, walnuts, pistachios
- Seeds - Sunflower, pumpkin, flax
- Grains - Quinoa, buckwheat, barley
- Vegetables - Spinach, asparagus, broccoli
Healthy eating patterns that are low in red meat have shown to lower the risk of many common diseases. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends choosing lean cuts of beef, pork, and poultry. The Mediterranean diet uses vegetables, fish and lean animal protein sources. Vegetarian diets use plant based protein sources. These diets have shown to promote heart and GI health, and to lower the risk of diabetes.
Many people around the world consume bugs as alternative protein sources. Americans find this unusual, but bugs are delicacies in some countries. Researchers are currently looking into the idea of mass producing insects. For Americans, this might mean introducing bugs into our diets in the future.
Today make the decision to eat leaner animal products. This can be done by using the list above and varying your protein sources. Making this decision will help you receive the great health benefits of protein.
Here are a few shopping tips to do just that:
- Choose lean beef like round steaks or ground beef labeled 92% lean or higher
- Buy skinless chicken products, or plan to remove the skin when cooking
- Choose lean ham when available
- Take a look at the variety of luncheon meats and choose low-fat options
- Choose seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon or trout
- Add eggs, beans, peas, or soy to your grocery list and try them as the main dish or part of a meal
- Add a variety of grains and green leafy vegetables into your dishes for protein and fiber
- You can find cost effective nuts and seeds in the bulk section of the grocery store
With these tips and the information provided, you should now be well equipped to make the right choices when it comes to protein!
Additional Information about dietary recommendations can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov.
All about the Protein Foods Group. (2017). Choose MyPlate. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
Protein. (2017). The Nutrition Source. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
Tips for making wise choices. (2017). Choose MyPlate. Retrieved 31 March 2017.