When you hear the word protein do you think of meat?
Most people think of meat when they hear the word protein, but it's so much more than that! It's not only meats that give us protein, there are plenty non-animal protein options (but ill get to that).
What is a protein?
A protein is a naturally occurring, extremely complex substance that consists of amino acid residues joined by peptide bonds. Proteins are present in all living organisms and include many essential biological compounds such as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Proteins also supply varying amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and Vitamin E, which are essential for our bodies.
So why are proteins important and why should we eat high protein foods?
Proteins not only build body cells, enzymes, and hormones, it's also a great source of energy for your body. The vitamins and minerals from proteins deliver tons of health benefits. For example, vitamin B helps with energy production, the formation of new blood cells, body tissue, and nervous system functions. Iron carries oxygen in your blood throughout your body. Magnesium aids in bone building as well as releases energy into your muscles. Zinc not only helps your immune system function, it's also part of other body processes as well. So you see, we do need a well balanced amount of protein in our bodies. Now that we know WHY, let's learn about some easy ways to get more protein in our day to day eating habits.
Eat a variety of fish in place of some meat and poultry twice a week. Include oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, anchovies, sardines, and oysters (which are my favs & rich in omega-3 fatty acids)
2. Choose Lean
Choosing lean meat & poultry is the way to go. Always try to go skinless, or remove the skin off of chicken, fish, etc. Often times, I'll even remove my sausage meat from the link casings. To be considered "lean" the meat should be 92% lean. Also, always trim visible fat off of your meats & poultry.
Enjoy the flavors of meat & poultry, but use portion control so you don't over do it. Filling about a quarter of your plate with protein is enough. Most people need an equivalent of about 5-7 ounces total proteins daily. Unless you're bulking of course. So, yes occasionally it's okay to eat larger portions, but a 12-16 ounce steak for dinner is way more than enough. Try not to do that often & if you do, skip a day of eating protein and just go carbs only. Since proteins take longer for your body to digest.
Broil, grill, roast, or use other low-fat cooking methods to cook meat, poultry, and fish. Honestly, nowadays we have these air fryers (which are great) it takes the grease out of cooking. If you're trying to lose weight, I highly recommend getting an air fryer. Often times, frying and over using grease or oils to cook adds empty calories to your meals that you could live without. So be mindful of the amount of oil you cook with, as well as frying foods in greases.
5. Switch Proteins
Several times a week, build menus around beans & peas, or soy foods, as a main dish, or even make them part of a meal. I love adding beans or lentils to my salads, it's such a tasty way to mix things up! They are naturally low in saturated fats and high in fiber. Try vegetarian chili or lasagna, vegetable tofu stir fry, or even a bean soup.
Add eggs to your lunch and dinner, not just breakfast. I love making a dozen hard boiled eggs during the week for on the go snacks, or just protein packed snacks in general. They're an excellent and affordable protein source. If you have high cholesterol then definitely just do egg whites.
Include nuts among the other sources of protein that you're eating. I also add nuts to my salads, granola cereals, and also eat them raw as a healthy snack. Because they are a concentrated source of calories, eat small portions. Also, mix it up! There are so many nut options. Among them are almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, and many many more.
8. Plant Based
Experiment with plant based protein foods. Such as tofu, tempeh, and veggie/bean burgers (soy burgers). If you need to count carbs for managing diabetes, check the carbohydrate content of each veggie/bean burger options. Personally, I really enjoy firm tofu cooked with some low sodium soy sauce, over a bunch of veggies (like a stir fry).
Make sandwiches out of lean turkey meat, peanut butter and bananas, tuna, fresh salmon, deli meats and more. Go for deli meats that are low in sodium, often times you'll find bologna, salami, and roast beef have high sodium. Try to choose lean meats such as, turkey, ham, and other low fat luncheon meats for sandwiches.
10. Limit These
Stay away from completely or try to limit, pork of any kind, hot dogs, corn dogs, and other processed meats that are high in sodium. Be aware that consuming too much nitrates can increase risk of cancers.
I really hope this has been helpful in understanding why protein is important. As well as learning about the types of proteins & the abundance of options we have when eating protein foods! What are your favorite types of proteins? Leave a comment below👇🏼🥰