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Protein - The Food for our Muscles

Protein is the second largest component of our body; second only to water!  The body is made up of at least 10,000 different proteins.  It makes up our nails, hair, skin, muscles, and enzymes that power many chemical reactions.  These proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced.    

Protein is found in the following foods:
  • meats, poultry, and fish
  • legumes (dry beans and peas)
  • tofu and soy products
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • milk and dairy products
  • grains (small amount)
  • vegetables (small amount)
Some proteins are higher quality than other types of proteins. In addition, some proteins are higher in fat than others.

Quality.  Proteins are built from building blocks called amino acids.  Our body can make some amino acids, but other amino acids cannot be created by the body and must be obtained from the diet (essential amino acids).  
  • Animal sources of protein have all the amino acids needed by the body.
  • Vegetable proteins (grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.) lack one or more essential amino acid.
    • Vegetarians must eat a variety of foods each day to ensure they are getting all the necessary amino acids to build new proteins.
Fat.  Some proteins are higher in fat than others.  Try to choose lean protein sources and avoid or limit medium and high fat protein sources.

Choose these lean sources:
  • Beef: ground sirloin, filet, round, and lean ground beef (96% lean)
  • Fish: all fish (not fried)
  • Chicken/turkey: skinless (grilled, baked, broiled)
  • Pork: center cut, lean
  • Eggs: 1 yolk/day max, plus egg whites/egg substitutes
  • Veggie burgers: Boca/Morningstar Farms (but limit because they're highly processed)
  • Sausage/hot dogs: low-fat versions (but limit because they're highly processed)
  • Deli meats: lean turkey, ham, or roast beef (low-sodium versions)
  • Soy products: tofu, soy milk, edamame (soy beans)
  • Dairy: 2% cheese, parmesan cheese, low-fat cream cheese, part skim mozzarella, skim milk, yogurt
Limit or avoid these medium and high fat sources:
  • Pork/sausage/hot dogs: ground pork, spareribs, regular hot dogs
  • Fish: any fried fish
  • Cheese: American, blue, Swiss, mozzarella, and most deli cheeses
  • Other: luncheon style meats like bologna, pastrami, salami, pepperoni
  • Sausage: Polish, Italian smoked
  • Other beef: T-bone, ribeye, porterhouse, ground beef 80% or 85% lean, roast (rib, chuck, rump), and corned beef
Do you have questions on how to incorporate healthy proteins into your diet?  Contact your wellness coach or click here.

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