Published on February 26, 2019

variety of protein rich foods

#TryItTuesday: Power Up with Protein

Today’s #Try It Tuesday is all about protein: Why it’s important, some fun facts, and suggestions on how we can power up our diet to include more protein.

Protein – What is It?

Protein is an essential component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.

Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient," meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called "micronutrients." Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.

Protein exists in every one of the trillions of cells in the human body. Without it, no life could exist. Approximately 18-20 percent of the body is protein.

Many foods contain protein but the best sources are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds and legumes like black beans and lentils.

Fun Facts about Protein

  • The word “protein” is Greek, and it comes from the word “proteios” which means “primary” or “first rank.” The word protein has been used since 1883.
  • There are about 100,000 different types of protein in the human body. The lifespan of most proteins totals two days or less.
  • Without a protein called albumin, the entire human body would swell.

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Most people, ages 9 and older, should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein foods each day. One ounce equals 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or seafood, one egg; ¼ cup cooked beans or peas; 1 tablespoon of peanut butter; or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds. 

Power Up Your Diet with Protein

  • Eat a variety of protein foods each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy and seafood.
  • Choose seafood twice a week.
  • Choose lean or low fat meat and poultry lean. Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 92 percent lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.
  • Eat eggs. One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.
  • Eat plant protein foods more often. Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
  • Nuts and seeds. Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.
  • Keep it tasty and healthy. Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking — they don’t add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender — try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.
  • Make a healthy sandwich. Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium—make them occasional treats only.
  • Think small when it comes to meat portions. Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller turkey burger or a “petite” size steak.
  • Check the sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods — including soups, vegetables, beans and meats. Many processed meats — such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs—are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

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