Your Cheat Sheet to this Important Food Group
In the protein food group, there are a wide variety of choices such as meats, poultry, legumes, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. Protein plays a key role in the body by helping build and maintain strong muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. There are also key nutrients that can be found in these different food products. Some of these nutrients include:
- B vitamins which help release energy, play an important part in the nervous system, form red blood cells and build the tissues throughout the body.
- Iron which carries oxygen in the blood.
- Magnesium which builds bones and helps releases energy from the muscles.
- Zinc which is key in the immune system.
While there are many choices to choose from, some are higher in saturated fats which can lead to detrimental health risks. To avoid those health risks, try to eat leaner proteins. Lean proteins are defined as containing less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fats. Here are some examples of lean proteins:
- White fish
- Haddock, cod, flounder, halibut, tilapia
- Chicken, skinless white meat
- The breasts, breast tenderloins and wings
- Lean beef
- Loins, rounds, flank steaks, brisket flat half
- 95% lean ground beef
- Pork loins
- Tenderloin, pork chops, sirloin roasts, pork top loin
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Low-fat milk
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Lite tofu
- Egg whites
Another way to make your proteins healthier is by the way you cook them. Here are some helpful tips on preparing your protein in a healthier way:
- Trim the fat before cooking
- Use marinades to tenderize and flavor leaner meats
- Drain / skim the fat
- Reduce portion sizes
- Use low-fat cooking methods (grilling, broiling, roasting, sautéing, baking)
Nuts and seeds are another great source of protein that can reduce the risk of heart disease. However, it is important to know that nuts and seeds are higher in calories so eating smaller portions are a must.