Nutrition experts rank 9 protein sources for best, worst choices – Tallahassee Democrat

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Mark A. Mahoney

Greek yogurt dip. Greek yogurt has double the protein and nutrients like calcium and vitamin D play a key role in your overall health.

As we pass the mid-point in National Nutrition Month I came across some relevant information on better choices for protein.

Although most individuals do not lack an adequate amount of protein, there are some better bets to consider to satisfy our requirements. Check out some of the recommendations to consider provided by some of my fellow nutrition professionals from a post to Everyday Health.

Importance of protein for our body

Protein is a critical macronutrient to maintain a healthy diet and a strong body. But are you getting the proper amount from the right foods?

Without protein human beings would be in a sorry state. This critical nutrient (which joins fat and carbohydrates in the trio of macronutrients) not only builds muscle tissue, it’s a vital component of hormones and enzymes and gives structural support to cells.

Fortunately, when it comes to protein, most of us don’t have trouble meeting our needs. According to an analysis of data from 2001 to 2014, adults in the United States consume close to 90 grams of protein per day, on average.

While this is higher than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Daily Value of a minimum of 50 grams, the authors note that the FDA’s recommendation is based on a minimum intake intended to prevent deficiency — not necessarily to optimize body function.

However, not all proteins are created equal. In fact, when people eat lots of protein from meat high in saturated fat, it can be harmful to heart health by increasing cholesterol levels. And eating too much protein may also leave no room other healthful foods like fruits and veggies, according to the American Heart Association.

Nutrition experts rank nine protein sources

That’s why a well-planned diet that contains healthful proteins can support your overall well-being. Yet, with the rising popularity of snacks, lean meals, and plant-based options, plenty of folks are now asking whether some protein sources are better than others.

Here’s a look at how nutrition experts rank nine common sources of this muscle-building macronutrient.

1. Best: Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is made by straining off excess liquid whey from traditional yogurt, making it thicker and doubling the protein content, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Nutrients like calcium and vitamin D play a key role in your overall health, as they aid in muscle and nerve function, help maintain a healthy immune system, and regulate blood flow, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Important, though, is reading the nutrition label before buying, says Lauren Hubert, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. “It’s easy to think you’re buying a yogurt that’s high in protein, but it actually has a ton of sugar,” she says. Choosing plain Greek or Icelandic-style yogurt is the ideal option, says Hubert.

2. Worst: Plant-based yogurt

While Greek yogurt can be a good protein choice, the same isn’t necessarily true for plant-based yogurts. “Most plant-based yogurts don’t contain a lot of protein,” says Alyssa Smolen, MS, RD, based in Essex County, New Jersey “If you are looking to have yogurt to fulfill your protein needs, it’s best to stick to dairy yogurt, preferably Greek yogurt.”

Eggs provide a solid source of nutrition that’s both convenient and versatile.

3. Best: Eggs

For a simple protein fix, you can’t go wrong with eggs. According to David Katz, MD, MPH, an internal, preventative, and lifestyle medicine specialist in Hamden, Connecticut, eggs provide a solid source of nutrition that’s both convenient and versatile.

At 6 grams per large chicken egg, they provide a serious high-quality protein bang for your buck, per the USDA. According to a recent study, protein from eggs is the most digestible protein in food — meaning the amino acids in eggs are more available for the body to use — compared to dairy, meat, and plant-based sources of protein.

4. Worst: Red meat

Though red meat contains some of the highest protein levels of any food — 29 grams in 100 grams of lean top sirloin, for example, according to the USDA — it’s not without serious downsides. Red meat is a triple negative due to its environmental impact, its potential for animal cruelty, and its effects on human health. Dr. Katz’s conclusion: “The less [red meat], the better.”

Black-eyed Pea Salsa takes a traditional salsa and enhances it by adding hearty beans and lots of crunchy veggies. A half-cup serving of beans provides 9 grams of both protein and fiber per 100 grams, according to the USDA.

5. Best: Beans

“For every bad mark beef gets, beans get a good mark,” says Katz. They’re high in fiber and protein, low in saturated fat, have comparatively minimal environmental impact, past research shows, and won’t break your grocery budget. Canned or dry beans in particular make a smart choice: A half-cup serving provides 9 grams of both protein and fiber per 100 grams, according to the USDA.

6. Worst: Hot dogs

It’s not surprising that hot dogs aren’t in the highest echelon of protein choices. As processed meats, they harbor many of the same health risks as red meats. In fact, red and processed meats have both been associated with significantly higher risk of colorectal cancer, according to a meta-analysis.

This has to do with how they are prepared. “Meats that will be less nourishing, such as processed meats like sausages and hotdogs, have a lot of fat and sodium added to them during processing,” says Hubert. One regular hot dog has 472 mg of sodium and 6.5 g of saturated fat, according to the USDA, which is 20 and 32 percent of your daily value for sodium and saturated fat, respectively, in an entire day.

Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

7. Best: Wild salmon

To get high-quality protein (the kind that provides all the essential amino acids your body needs), you don’t have to eat animal foods. But if you do, Katz recommends wild salmon. Choosing wild salmon is also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

8. Worst: Hard salami

Much like hot dogs, hard salami is a problematic protein for its high degree of processing and its fat and sodium content. Though 100 grams of hard pork salami provides an impressive 22.6 grams of protein, it also comes with 407 calories, 13.4 grams of saturated fat, and 2,260 mg of sodium, according to the USDA. Again, high amounts of these nutrients can increase your risk of heart disease.

Per the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils contains 7.9 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. This lentil soup is topped with fresh carrots and celery for extra crunch and flavor.

9. Best: Lentils

Their combo of high protein and high fiber can be satisfying in stews, curries, and more. Per the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils contains 7.9 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.

In fact, lentils are some of the overall healthiest foods around. The USDA categorizes pulses like lentils as both a vegetable and protein due to their nutritional value.

The bottom line

Protein isn’t just for pro athletes or folks who want to bulk up. This macronutrient fuels numerous important processes in every human body.

To make the best decisions for your protein intake, it’s best to lean on minimally processed foods like beans, wild salmon, lentils, and eggs — and avoid more processed options like plant-based yogurts, hot dogs, and salami. If you’re concerned about how much protein you’re getting or where you’re getting it from, talk to a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) who can give you guidance specific to your unique needs.

Mark Mahoney

Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected].

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

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