The average American diet typically contains a high amount of protein, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Proteins play an important part in our daily life and in the function of our bodies. Proteins are responsible for muscle growth and maintenance, they act as enzymes in important chemical reactions, and they play the part of messenger when they’re turned into hormones.
While the quantity of protein we consume is important, it is just as important to look at the quality of those proteins. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends a variety of lean animal and plant proteins. Lean animal proteins include low fat beef, pork, poultry, and seafood and plant proteins include things like beans, lentils, nuts, soy products, and seeds.
These two categories of lean proteins will typically be low in saturated fats and sodium, both of which, when consumed regularly in high amounts, are correlated to increased risk of preventable diseases such as hypertension. Plant proteins will also typically contain higher amounts of unsaturated fats, which are linked to improved cholesterol levels, and fiber, an important player in bowel health.
These plant protein sources are also easy to sneak into any diet. Add beans to your favorite casserole, sunflower seeds to a salad, or top your morning oatmeal with walnuts or pecans!
However, remember when buying canned goods to look for reduced-, or low-sodium varieties. Salt is a great preservation tool and can greatly increase the shelf life of a canned good. The beans may be low sodium, but the liquid they’re packaged in may not. If you cannot find a low-sodium option, thoroughly rinse the product before use to reduce the amount of salt you’re consuming.
For more information on protein, health, and nutrition please contact County Extension Agent – Family and Community Health Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.