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10 protein-packed foods to add to your diet

Jul 2, 2019

Protein is essential to any diet. Maybe you are doing a low-carb, high protein diet. Maybe you are a vegetarian making sure you get enough protein.

Whatever diet you choose to follow, it’s important to remember that quality is just as important as quantity. That processed lunch meat, for example, may be high in protein but it’s also loaded with salt, which causes high blood pressure and can lead to other health problems.

Andrea Manley, clinical dietitian with St. Joseph’s HospitalUnderstanding protein

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to the human body, explains Andrea Manley, clinical dietitian with St. Joseph’s Hospital. It is an important building block of every cell in the body.

Hair and nails are mostly made of protein.

Protein builds and repairs tissues.

Protein helps make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.

“Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a macronutrient, meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it,” Manley says.

How much daily protein an individual needs depends on many factors including weight, height, gender and activity levels. No one person is exactly the same. To determine your protein needs, it would be best to contact a registered dietitian, Manley says.

A person can get too much or too little protein. Not enough can cause protein-calorie malnutrition and the wasting of lean body mass, Manley says. If severe, this can cause organ failure and even death.

However, too much protein also is bad. This can cause stress on the kidneys, dehydration and stress on the liver.

“It’s never good to restrict any one macronutrient. They are all needed for a healthy diet,” Manley says. “It is alright to limit carbohydrates and increase protein; however, to restrict carbs and eat all protein and fat can definitely do long term damage.”

For weight loss and weight control, Manley suggests a balanced diet of protein, carbs, fiber, healthy fats and regular exercise.

Related Article: Fiber: The unsung hero in weight management, digestion and lowering cholesterol

Healthy proteins to add to your diet

Food is the best source of protein, but it is important to eat the right kind of protein to get its health benefits. And, it’s not all about the meat. Vegetarians and vegans can find many non-animal protein sources.

Related Article: Is a vegetarian diet better for you?

To make sure you are getting an adequate amount of health proteins in your diet, Manley recommends the following 10 foods: 

  1. Tofu (v)
  2. Beans (v)
  3. Nuts (v)
  4. Fish
  5. Fat-free yogurt
  6. Eggs
  7. Pea protein sources, such as powders used in smoothies (v)
  8. Legumes (v)
  9. Kale (v)
  10. Soybeans (v)

(v=vegan source)

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