Health Tip #7 - Protein

What all you fitness- and health-minded people have been waiting for throughout our My Plate summary series is here! Today's Health Tip is about protein. Go Lean with Protein today!

Protein is a necessary component of building and maintaining your bodily tissues, such as bones and muscles, and are a major component of the vital chemical reactions that take place in your body! Thus, making it a macronutrient. Our bodies need to get it from foods. Protein foods supply a good amount of other nutrients too, including omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Animal sources of protein also contain cholesterol and saturated fats, however, which are known to increase the risk for heart disease. Hence, the goal to choose lean sources as often as possible.

There is a vast variety of protein options available to us. Most people know the common animal sources of protein: meat, eggs and cow's milk. You can keep your saturated fat and cholesterol lower by choosing lean protein options, such as lean cuts of meats, looking for 90% or more lean on packages and cutting off visible, marbled fat. You can choose cow's milk that is low fat and, most importantly, control portion sizes (more on that in the next paragraph). Somewhat lesser-known sources of protein include seafood, nuts, seeds, beans (naturally lean) and even many other common vegetables like peas and broccoli. It's important to note that seafood is recommended at least twice per week (8 oz. total per week) as it provides omega-3 fatty acids which actually work to lower your risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation.

Recommended Intake: This section alone could justify an hour of talking together. Our protein intake needs vary pretty significantly depending on physical activity (namely, those who are very fitness-minded), weight, gender, etc. Nevertheless, let's keep it simple and summarize: At baseline, a healthy adult female* who exercises less than 30 minutes per day, needs about 5-5.5 oz equivalents per day. Similarly, a healthy adult male* needs about 5.5-6.5 oz equivalents per day. Needs increase with increased physical activity. Below are some examples of common serving sizes and their protein ounce equivalents:

- 3 oz poultry or lean beef, maybe 3.5-4 oz eye of round filet, or 3 small slices of deli meat would be a common portion and would provide the equivalent number of ounces in protein equivalents (ounce for ounce count toward recommended needs). Note: a 3 oz size is about the size of an adult female's palm.

- 3 whole eggs = 3 oz equivalents

- 1 oz nuts or seeds = 2 oz equivalents

- 1 Cup bean, lentil, or split pea soup = 2 oz equivalents

Challenge: In summary, I challenge you to choose lean sources of protein this week. You probably already started this last time with the Dairy Challenge. Make another simple change this week! Choose My Plate summarizes our tip as "Go Lean with Protein." Pretty catchy. Choose the lentil soup instead of the creamy broccoli cheese soup as your side at a restaurant. Eat a 3-4 oz portion of meat at your next meal and when you go back for seconds, choose the vegetables instead.

If you exercise more than 30 minutes per day, contact me today for your personalized protein needs and for specific ways to incorporate a variety of lean protein options into your daily routine!

*These recommendations are for healthy adults (18-64 years of age) with 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Carly Cooley