Proteins serve as building blocks for muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, blood, organs, enzymes, hormones and even some vitamins.
Your body is constantly breaking down and putting together proteins to make a variety of important things for the body.
Foods in the protein group come from both animal and plant sources and include foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products. Besides actual protein, foods in this group also provide your body with other nutrients like niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, choline, phosphorus and magnesium.
Foods in the protein group that come from animal sources (meat, poultry, fish and eggs) can also provide your body with saturated fat and cholesterol, which in large amounts can increase your risk for heart disease. So for this reason, Federal dietary guidelines recommend choosing lean meats or plant sources of protein (beans, peas, nuts, nut butters, seeds, soy) most often and limiting high fat and processed meats.
What counts as a “lean” meat?
- Chicken or turkey with the skin removed
- Egg whites or egg substitutes
- Fish and shellfish
- Beef choices include round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip, chuck shoulder, arm roasts), top loin, top sirloin and lean ground beef (at least 92% lean/8%fat)
- Wild game like duck, quail, or pheasant (skin removed) and venison
- Pork choices include loin, tenderloin, center loin chop
Limit high fat and high sodium protein sources:
- Sausage and bacon
- Hot dogs
- Deli meats like bologna and salami
Most Americans only need to eat 5-6 ½ ounces of foods from the protein group each day. This is because you also get protein from other food groups like dairy, vegetables and grains. If you eat more protein than your body needs, your body will convert it to glucose or store it as fat. So you could actually gain weight by eating protein in excess.