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Power Up With Protein

Protein is an energy source—and most Americans get enough. 10 to 35% of our daily calories come from protein. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage us to choose a variety of protein foods -seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas (legumes), soy, nuts and seeds.

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Protein’s Purpose:

  • Provide the amino acid building blocks
  • Are enzymes that help biochemical reactions take place
  • Serve as transport carriers, hormones, cell signals and in immune responses
  • Help create body structure—such as cell membranes, skin, bones, muscles and teeth

Having Heart for Protein

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing seafood as a protein source several times each week. Think salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna—proteins that are high in a type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that eating fish high in omega-3s can help lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease risk.

Certain nuts such as walnuts and almonds are high in monounsaturated fats and may help to raise HDL “good” cholesterol. Eating them may help reduce risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a diet that is nutritionally adequate and within calorie needs. Swap a small handful of nuts for less healthful fats such as those found in cheeses and meats.

Go Lean with Protein

  • Choose lean cuts of protein. Lean means “breast” or “loin” in the name—such as chicken breast, lean ground turkey breast, extra lean ground beef, beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin. Exotic meats such as buffalo are lean too.
  • Enjoy seafood (fish and shellfish) often—eating 8 ounces per week.
  • Cut off any fat and remove skin to keep animal protein as lean as possible.
  • Replace some protein foods that are higher in solid fats (meat, poultry and eggs) with choices that are lower in solid fats and/or are sources of healthful oils (fish, nuts and seeds).
  • Go meatless and opt for plant proteins from legumes (beans and peas) and soy on occasion. No need to worry about complementing plant proteins as long as you eat a variety of foods from all food groups daily.
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds in small amounts to keep calories and fat in check.
  • Make changes to your diet one day at a time. Experts say it takes just 21 days to build a new habit. Come back soon to eatbetteramerica. We’re continuing to develop ideas and tools to help you eat healthier foods, manage your weight and improve your lifestyle in 2011 and beyond.
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