Best Forms of Protein for Heart Health

We all know that red meat is something we should limit for the sake of cholesterol. But, some people worry about their protein levels. The fact of the matter is, red meat, while very high in protein, isn’t the best source of protein for your heart. It’s high in saturated fat that can increase your LDL cholesterol levels. So, as you cut down on red meat, what are the best foods to eat more of to make up the difference?

Legumes and nuts are great options. As 100 grams of steak have 31.1 grams of protein, it might seem that 150 grams of chickpeas having 10.8 grams is paltry. But, in addition to protein, these legumes are also filled with soluble fiber that helps you feel full and may aid in weight loss. And, eating more legumes has been linked to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. A one-cup serving of lentils has 18 grams of protein and less than one gram of fat. While nuts do contain fat, it’s unsaturated fat. Because they are high in calories, it’s important to watch portion size. They have also been linked to better levels of cholesterol, healthier arteries, lower inflammation and lower risks for clots and heart attacks.  

Fish is an excellent form of protein that is high in omega-3s that can increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. That’s especially true of fatty fishes like salmon and sardines. Poultry is high in protein, magnesium, vitamin A and zinc while also being low in fat. It doesn’t offer many heart benefits, but it also doesn’t harm health. It’s more of a neutral form of protein.

Dairy, including fermented dairy, can be an excellent form of protein. Fermented dairy includes foods like yogurt and cheese. Fermented foods are known to help gut health which can positively impact heart health. Eggs, often categorized with dairy, are an excellent source of protein but are sometimes viewed as controversial. The American Heart Association says one or two eggs a day are fine as part of a healthy diet.

New research found that eating 400 grams of vegetables a day and limiting red meat to 100 grams a week can significantly lower heart health risks. “We need to rediscover culinary traditions such as the Mediterranean diet which has delicious recipes using beans, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables,” says study author Dr. Gabriele Riccardi.

The study got specific. The researchers recommended 180 grams of legumes four times a week, 30 grams of nuts a day, two to four 150 grams of fish, up to three 100-gram servings of poultry, up to three 50-gram servings of cheese a week and 200 grams of yogurt daily. We think it’s incredible that they broke it down so precisely. We also believe trying to follow such a strict diet without being directed by a doctor is a crash diet. It reads like a great way to drive yourself crazy with worry. You cannot fixate on every meal like that.

What you can take away from all of this is that there are many forms of protein. Removing red meat from your diet doesn’t mean you have to lose protein. You just need to eat more or different vegetables or include more fish in your diet. Protein can be found in more sources than you think, and they offer many benefits!
July 23, 2021

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