Getting to the Heart of a Healthy Diet: Protein-Rich Foods
Protein can come from dairy products, meats, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, and soy. They are a very important part of our daily diets and something our bodies need, in order provide amino acids to:
- Create, repair, and maintain tissue
- Help build enzymes and hormones
- Help build immunity to fight infection
How Protein Choices Affect Your Health:
Fat and CholesterolFull fat dairy products (whole milk, yogurt, cheese), poultry skin, and many cuts of red meat are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated and trans fats raise blood cholesterol, in particular they raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, while lowering good (HDL) cholesterol.. A high level of bad cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. Choosing leaner meats and low- or non-fat dairy products and watching your portion sizes can help reduce this risk without completely eliminating these foods.On the other hand, plant based proteins, like legumes have very little saturated fat or cholesterol. These are good to incorporate into your diet so that you get enough protein without cholesterol risks.
Healthy ArteriesFish has less total fat and saturated fat than meat and poultry. Although some fish are high in fat, the fat is mostly omega-3 fatty acids—a type of polyunsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats, both mono and poly, are heart healthy. Omega-3s are believed to help prevent arteries from hardening and to help prevent blood from clotting and sticking to artery walls. Omega-3s may help prevent atherosclerosis and heart attacks.Dark meat fish contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to note that although eating fish has more evidence for benefits, fish oil supplements have not been proven to carry the same benefits.
To Help Lower Blood PressureKeeping your blood pressure within normal limits will also help keep your heart healthy. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet (and the DASH-Sodium diet) have shown to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. DASH incorporates low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and whole grains as part of a well-rounded diet.