The Power of Protein

Protein is a powerful “macronutrient,” in everyone’s diet. Your hair and nails are made of protein, your body repairs and builds tissues with protein, and protein is a critical component in bones, blood, muscles, and hormones. Here’s how to incorporate the right amount of protein in your diet from healthy sources.

How much do you need?

Unlike fat and carbohydrates, our bodies don’t store protein, but that doesn’t mean you should fill your plate with steak three times a day. Adequate protein is needed to build muscle – that’s why elite athletes need to eat more. For the average woman, the CDC says 46 grams of protein (or about 10% to 35% of your daily calorie intake), which is a glass of milk at breakfast, a cup of yogurt at lunch, and a 3 ounce serving of meat at dinner. Keep in mind, a 3 ounce serving of meat is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

Healthy sources of protein

The following foods are excellent and healthy protein sources:

– seafood and fish
– skinless, white-meat poultry
– beans
– eggs
– low-fat dairy products
– nuts
– lean beef
– soy

Beans and eggs are some of the least expensive ways to include protein in your diet. Plus, beans are fat-free and loaded with fiber, the latter is what helps you feel satiated longer. Low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, milk, and cheese, fight the onset of osteoporosis, because they are rich in calcium and vitamin D.

When it comes to eating meat, stick to the leanest cuts (leg, loin and round) and always remove skin from chicken before cooking, since saturated fat lurks in the skin. It’s okay to cook the chicken with the skin to retain its moisture, and simply remove afterward to shave off a little extra saturated fat. Shy away from processed meats, like hot dogs, deli ham, turkey, pastrami, and bacon, to avoid unwanted calories, sodium, and preservatives.

Of course, busy schedules may mean occasional on-the-go meals, so bring along a 6-oz, cup of low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt with a banana and a tablespoons of almonds in the morning, or when hunger strikes, enjoy an energy bar that is low in fat and sugar.

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