In order for the body to be able to build cells, skin, muscles, and strong bones, protein is needed as the building block. Since the human body is unable to store protein in the same way that it is able to store carbohydrates, it is essential to ingest enough protein on a daily basis. But is all protein equal?
It is the saturated fat content that decides whether or not the protein is good or bad. If the protein you choose to eat is high in saturated fat, this can increase your blood cholesterol levels, a prime risk factor for heart disease. The average healthy adult needs to consume between 40 and 65 grams of protein every single day. Below is a list of smart and heart-healthy protein options to choose from:
Lean meats: For the die-hard meat and potatoes people, there are leaner options for meat. Fish, turkey, chicken, and beef that is up to about 95% lean still have the high levels of protein, but also have much less fat, especially the unhealthy saturated fats that can possibly lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Meats: Chicken with skin, steak, and salami are some of the meats that are quite high in protein, but they are also very high in saturated fats. For example, you can obtain almost all of your daily protein by consuming one 6-oz steak, but that steak will also have close to 75% of your intake for saturated fat.
Soy: Soy proteins are one of the richest sources of protein, and they are also low in saturated fats. Vegetarian meat alternatives such as veggie burgers, soy nuggets, and edamame can be found in almost every grocery store, and they are quite tasty. If you are unable to find edamame in your local grocery store, check in a local Asian market.
Beans, nuts, and legumes: All of the various varieties of beans are excellent sources of digestible protein, and they are low in saturated fats. Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, taste fabulous on top of salads or mixed in hummus, an excellent dip for fresh veggies. Spiced up vegetarian chili recipes are a delicious alternative to the more traditional chili recipes. Legumes including lentils and dried peas can also be added into stews and chili. When nuts are eaten sparingly, they are another perfect source for protein that is not very high in fat.
Dairy: Dairy products are very often forgotten as a good source of protein, but they are definitely worth taking a look at. Some of the dairy products are much higher in saturated fat than others are, so ensure that you read the labels. Low-fat versions are available for milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc.
Along with choosing good and healthy sources of protein, you may also find it to be useful to plan out your meals for the week ahead of time. Planning in advance can assist you with identifying the "bad" food culprits that you may regularly eat too much of, making it possible for you to plan healthier substitutions beforehand.