What is good about protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient. It is part of your muscles, and various proteins make up your immune system and some hormones. Proteins in your body also help drive metabolic reactions. Your body needs to get protein from the diet in order to obtain the necessary components to build the proteins in your body.
Protein takes a long time to digest, which can help delay hunger for longer, which can help with weight control. Eating lean foods with a lot of protein can help with weight control because they are filling and relatively low in calories.
Protein can also help with blood sugar control. Since it takes a long time to digest, it slows the release of glucose into your bloodstream after you eat, so blood sugar does not spike as high or as fast. Adding protein to a high-carb meal lowers its glycemic index.
In addition, some high-protein foods are linked to health benefits. Fish, beans, nuts, and dairy products all have valuable nutrients and may lower risk for obesity and/or other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.
Why do all protein foods not count as Lark superfoods?
Protein, as a nutrient, is all very similar. However, the package it comes in varies wildly. Protein in chicken breast is basically the same as protein in pepperoni, but pepperoni also delivers nitrates, sodium, and saturated fat, and has less protein and more calories per serving. As additional examples, protein is in grains, which are a high-carb package, in beans, which are a high-fiber package, and in nuts, which are a package high in fiber and healthy fats. Fortunately, the Lark app takes this into account.
While most plant-based protein foods are nutrient-rich and have health benefits, some animal-based sources of protein are linked to health concerns. Fatty meats are high in saturated fat, which raises “bad” LDL cholesterol and risk for heart disease. They are linked to heart disease and increased risk for some cancers. Processed poultry and red meat, both fatty and lean, are high in sodium and contain nitrates. Consumption is linked to heart disease and certain cancers, so your lark coach won’t count them.
Sources of protein
Protein is in almost all foods except for fruit and pure fats such as oil and butter. These are some foods that are high in protein.
- Fish, such as tilapia, cod, snapper, salmon, anchovies, tuna, halibut, trout
- Shellfish, such as mussels, oysters, shrimp, clams
- Chicken and turkey
- Beef and pork, such as chops, steaks, ground meat
- Processed meats, such as chicken and turkey breast, pepperoni, bologna, salami, ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, frankfurters
- Eggs and egg whites
- Tofu, soybeans, and veggie burgers and other soy-based meat substitutes
- Cheese, yogurt, and milk.
- Beans, lentils, and split peas
- Nuts, peanuts, and seeds.
Tips for keeping protein healthy
- Including a serving of protein in most meals and snacks can keep hunger down and stabilize blood sugar.
- Average American adults get nearly 50% more protein than they need , so there is no need to worry.
- Plant-based proteins can have benefits such as healthy fats and/or dietary fiber, and they are naturally cholesterol-free.
- Foods are more filling and typically contain fewer artificial ingredients than protein bars and shakes.
- Preparation matters. Breading and frying protein foods, adding sugary or salty sauces, and making creamy casseroles, all add calories and less-healthy components.
- Removing poultry skin and visible fat from meat cuts calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
Ideas for getting healthier proteins
- Meatless sausage or turkey bacon instead of bacon or breakfast sausage.
- Baked, grilled, stewed, or roasted chicken breast, shrimp, or fish instead of breaded and deep-fried options.
- Baked falafel or veggie burgers as a Meatless Monday choice instead of a burger.
- Fat-free refried beans, plain yogurt, and low-fat cheese in a whole-grain, soft taco-size tortilla instead of beef, cheese, rice, and sour cream on a white, full-sized tortilla.
- Tuna or leftover chicken breast in a sandwich instead of processed meat.
- Ground turkey or soy protein instead of full-fat ground beef for burgers, chili, meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, and burritos.
- Homemade veggie burgers with almost any combination of carrots, mushrooms, beans, peas, tofu, brown rice, quinoa, egg, and oats.