Getting to the Heart of a Healthy Diet: Protein-Rich Foods

image for high protein diet article 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
As with any food group, it is important to choose your particular proteins carefully. Some protein-rich foods (like red meat) are high in cholesterol and saturated fats. The harms of regularly eating these fats to get adequate amounts of protein may outweigh the benefits. There are several very healthy forms of protein, so it is important to choose your protein sources wisely.

How Protein Choices Affect Your Health:

Fat and Cholesterol

Full 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 Arteries

Fish 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 Pressure

Keeping 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.

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