Protein power



Eat more protein from vegetable sources such as beans and nuts — supplemented by fish and fowl, and less meat and dairy products

In other words, shift from "hunter" proteins to "gatherer" ones. You need to take 8 grams of protein daily for every 20 pounds of your body weight — that works out to about 50 grams of protein a day for an average woman and 65 grams for an average man. Because protein is abundant in so many of the foods that we normally eat, you can hit the goal pretty easily.

A cup of low fat yoghurt has 11.9g
A 6 ounce serving of roast chicken
has 42.5g
8 ounces of nigari tofu has 40g
A cup of wild rice has 7g
A cup of cooked chickpeas has 1.2g

What matters is less the source of the protein and more the total protein package that a food offers. Red meat is a good source of protein but unfortunately it is also a rich source of unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol and the same is true for whole milk and milk products.

So if you love red meat, choose the leanest cuts you can find and don't go for huge amounts. About two servings of red meat a week, each roughly about the size of the palm of your hand, in the context of a balanced diet and exercise, is generally just fine.

Chicken, turkey and fish are better options and you can have slightly larger portions than of beef. Beans, nuts, grains and other vegetable sources are excellent because they are low in saturated fat and high in fibre. We don't usually think of grains as being protein sources because the amount per serving is modest but they can contribute importantly to overall intake when they are consumed at most meals.

Nutrition starts with 'n-u-t'
Not only are nuts not junk food, they are a great source of protein and further nutritional goodness. An ounce of almonds, walnuts or peanuts give you about 8 grams of protein, the same as a glass of milk.

Nuts do contain a large amount of fat but it is mostly unsaturated fat which reduces LDL cholesterol and keeps HDL cholesterol high.

Several studies have shown that eating nuts and seeds which contain healthy proteins and fats on most of the days of the week can greatly reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Just remember to eat them as a replacement for junk food or less healthy snacks and not in addition to these foods.

Turn them into dips or sauces: The toasty richness of nuts and seeds can greatly enhance vegetable snacks. Try dipping raw vegetables into any kind of nut butter or spoon it over cooked vegetables or grains.

Add them to salads: Toasted nuts give you the gift of crunch, interest and extra nutritional value to salads.

Peanut butter: When we think of protein, red meat, chicken, eggs often come to mind. Nut peanuts and peanut butter can also be a good source of protein, and, when spread on whole grain bread, can be a quick, economical and tasty lunch.

Getting complete proteins
Some dietary proteins are complete —they contain all the amino acids needed for your body to make new protein. Others are incomplete, meaning that they lack one or more essential amino acids, which your body can't produce.

Meat, poultry, fish and dairy tend to be good sources of complete proteins, while vegetable protein is often incomplete.

So, the more you shift away from animal sources and toward plant ones, the more important it is to choose combinations of foods that complement one another (such as rice and beans, peanut butter and whole grain bared, tofu and brown rice)- and to eat a good mix of beans, nuts, grains and vegetables to ensure that no essential components of protein are missing.

Protein in practice
Most of us get enough protein. Although vegans need to be sure they get enough and have a variety of sources, other people, unless they are on a very extreme diet, don't need to be concerned about counting protein grams.

For most people, the question to keep in mind is not how much but from what source.

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