Along with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein is one of the most important parts of your diet. Every snack or meal you eat should include some sort of lean protein; it is a natural weight-loss aid as well and can help you to be healthier without even thinking about it.
Like whole grains, protein takes longer to digest, so it “sticks to your ribs” and makes you feel fuller longer, decreasing the chances of overeating. Protein has little or no effect on your blood sugar levels and helps to keep your body system in balance, unlike refined carbohydrates which spike and then drop your blood sugar levels quickly, leading to hunger in the short term and diseases like diabetes in the long term. Protein has only four calories per gram, compared to nine per gram with fats and carbohydrates; whether you are trying to lose weight or not, eating lean protein with every snack and meal will leave you satisfied and feeling healthy.
GOOD SOURCES OF LEAN PROTEIN
While all proteins fend off hunger, lean proteins will do so with a minimum of calories, and finding such lean protein and adding them to your diet is a relatively easy feat. Here are a few tips:
Chicken breast as a lean protein source: Chicken breast can be added to soups, salads and sandwiches and provides a hearty flavor along with healthy lean protein. A favorite of dieters, you should try to only consume organic chicken meat to avoid the hormones and antibiotics given to commercial chickens.
Almonds and cashews as a lean protein source: Almonds and cashews are a quick and easy snack and will hold you over until your next meal. Don’t go nuts though - a small handful will do. Ten nuts are all you need to stave off hunger.
Eggs as a lean protein source: Eggs are inexpensive, easy to cook, and can be used in a wide variety of dishes from a fresh vegetable omelet to a broccoli scramble. Watch the amount of oil you cook with, and don’t forget that eggs are great not just for breakfast but lunch and dinner too.
Beans and rice as a lean protein source: Beans and rice make a complete protein for vegetarians; added chopped tomatoes and other fresh veggies for flavor variety or sprinkle a bit of cayenne to give your meal a Cajun kick.
Canned tuna or salmon as a lean protein source: Tuna or salmon canned in water provide a lean protein boost along with Omega-3s, essential fatty acids needed for proper brain function that also fight against aging. For a healthy tuna or salmon salad, load up on chopped fresh vegetables like celery or cucumbers and go lean on the mayo or salad dressing.
Cottage cheese as a lean protein source: Cottage cheese is a staple lean protein and makes a good snack or breakfast. Add fresh fruit pieces for added flavor or sprinkle a bit of granola or sliced almonds on top.
Sushi as a lean protein source: Sushi delivers fiber and protein with a minimum of calories and is quick and easy to grab when you don’t have time to make something yourself. Just add hot wasabi or pickled ginger instead of dipping your roll in soy sauce, which contains quite a bit of sodium.
Turkey breast as a lean protein source: Turkey breast makes a nice alternative to chicken and works well in sandwiches with a bit of cranberry sauce and some leaf lettuce on sprouted whole-grain bread.
Frozen edamame as a lean protein source: Frozen edamame, or young green soybeans, are easy to steam and make a snack that is different and delicious. Soybeans have more protein than beef does, and you can also add these beans to soups and salads.
Yogurt as a lean protein source:Yogurt, like all dairy products, is also a rich source of protein and is a fantastic snack, breakfast or dessert. The best option is to buy unflavored yogurt and sweeten it yourself with honey, maple syrup, or fresh or frozen fruits, as pre-sweetened yogurts often contain corn syrup as their first ingredient!
Shilo Urban is a freelance writer who has just relocated to Los Angeles after her previous homes of Seattle, New Zealand, Paris, Maine, and Austin. She is an active member of the West Coast electronic music community and lives to promote the art that she loves and the people who create it.