Weatherford Democrat

April 27, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Vary your protein choices

Weatherford Democrat


Most people’s health would benefit from getting more variety in your protein rich food choices. Protein-rich foods are essential for many functions of the body. Our muscles are primarily protein, but did you know that protein provides structure for all cells in the body? Typically protein makes up about 15 percent of a person’s body weight. Protein is needed for growth. It also helps maintain healthy organs, bones, joints, skin, hair and blood cells. It is formed into essential hormones, vitamins, enzymes and important cell components. Proteins also help to transport molecules from one place in the body to another. 

Foods that are rich in protein are also rich in other nutrients. For instance, many protein foods are excellent sources of B vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and B12. They also contain vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium and healthful omega 3 fats. Also the provide energy and satisfy our appetites. 

There are seven categories of protein-rich foods:

• Cooked dry beans and peas such as great northern or navy beans, lima beans, pinto beans, green peas, soy, tofu and texturized vegetable protein.

• Dairy produce such as milk yogurt and cheese.

• Eggs usually from chickens.

• Finfish and shellfish including anchovies, bass, haddock, halibut, shrimp, tilapia, and tuna.

• Nuts and seeds such as almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, squash seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts.

• Poultry including chicken, turkey, emu, and goose.

• Red meats such as beef, pork lamb, venison and organ meats.

The amount of protein that is required for good health depends on whether enough total calories are being eaten. If a person does not eat enough carbohydrates and or fats for their energy needs, then the protein eaten is converted into energy rather than being used to support growth and maintain health. Most adults need only 36 to 72 grams of good quality protein per day.  For nutritional needs and reducing the risks of chronic disease, adults should eat 10 to 35 percent of their total calories as protein.

Many people could improve their diet by eating rich lower protein that is lower in saturated fats. Here are ways to reduce saturated fats in protein rich foods:

• Choose meals made with cooked dry beans and peas, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, egg whites, fish, nuts and seeds.

• Choose lean cuts of red meats such as loin or round cuts and trim off any visible fats.

• Choose ground meat that is 90 to 100 percent lean.

• Discard poultry skin. Breast meat has less fat than dark.

• Eat less bacon and few if any high fat meats such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, hot dogs, bologna slices or sausages.

• Limit intake of high-fat dairy products including cream and whole milk, ice cream and cheeses.

• Choose lower fat versions of processed meats and dairy products.

• Keep foods lean by draining fat during cooking and choosing to bake, broil, roast, poach, boil, grill or pan-fry without added fat.