Protein: it’s one of the basic building blocks of the human body, and one of the most essential macronutrients for sustaining human life. This is why protein has played a central role in every human food culture: the domestication of cattle for meat and dairy was driven by the need for a reliable source of protein, and the development of cheese and yogurt arose from attempts to make milk protein last longer.
Thanks to the industrialized, global food chains of the twenty-first century, we now have an unparalleled number of options when it comes to protein. And this raises the inevitable question: what kinds of proteins should we be eating?
If you are trying to lose weight, reduce your cholesterol, or simply want to make general improvements to your diet, being intentional about the protein you eat is a great place to start. In particular, choosing lean proteins that can fuel the life you want and help you stave off cravings for empty calories is essential to well-being. Here are five of the best lean proteins you can incorporate into your diet for every meal of the day.
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts have long been acknowledged as the reigning champion in the world of lean meats. An average-sized roast skinless, boneless chicken breast will contain 165 calories, 31 grams of protein, and 3.6 total grams of fat.
This means that a filling meal based around a chicken breast, rice, and some iron-rich green veggies like broccoli or kale will provide you with a healthy, filling meal that will come it at well under 500 calories, a healthy plate that will give your body the fuel it needs.
For an added kick, add whole cloves of garlic, cumin seeds, and cloves to the rice as it cooks. This will make for a flavorful meal that won’t need a rich, fat-and-carb heavy sauce.
One of the most common pieces of advice for people trying to eat lean is to opt for lean ground beef over fattier cuts like ribeye and T-bone steaks. Ground beef is usually available in a variety of different fat contents, as fat can be trimmed from the chuck meat before it is processed.
However, if you love a good steak and don’t want to have to give up on your filet mignon, switching to grass-fed beef is the best way to get the leanest possible beef. Cattle that are raised on a diet of grass and forage for their entire lives produce meat that is leaner and richer in healthy fats than cattle that spend the final year of their lives eating high-calorie grain-based feed.
If you are having a hard time finding grass-fed beef at your local grocery store, ordering online grass-fed beef through trulocal.ca may be the best way to get your favorite grass-fed cuts delivered straight to your door.
While chicken breasts have long been the go-to lean protein, pork loin isn’t far behind. Pork loin contains more calories and fat when compared to an equal portion of chicken breast (a 3-ounce piece of pork loin will contain 171 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein), but it is also richer in flavor and a more versatile option for cooking.
For example, pork loin can be cut into juicy medallions that make for perfect little sliders, and is a great choice for pulling. Just as with chicken, pork loin makes for great grilling and can be served with a variety of different sides.
But if you’re on a low-calorie diet, make sure to be careful about sauces and cooking fats that can add easily add hidden fat and sugar to your meal, making it less heart-healthy.
For most of us, shrimp is familiar as a party appetizer. But while shrimp cocktail might not be the healthiest option (a teaspoon of sauce contains nearly as many calories as the shrimp itself), that is no reason to avoid this incredibly lean seafood.
A medium-sized shrimp contains 7 calories, so you can eat a dozen of them without coming close to the calorie-count of a chicken breast. Best of all, shrimp are almost entirely protein, so 3 ounces of cooked shrimp will yield 20 grams of protein.
This means that whether you’re looking for a mid-day snack or a protein option for a pasta or rice dish, shrimp is one of the leanest options around. It’s no surprise it is such a feature of many pasta dishes, as well as being a key ingredient in many traditional Spanish paellas.
Plain Greek Yogurt
When we think of lean protein, we tend to think of meat, for the simple reason that it offers significant amounts of protein with almost no carbs.
But protein is also a major component in dairy, and if you want to consume lean protein while avoiding meat, plain Greek yogurt is one of the best ways to do so. A single cup of Greek yogurt can contain more than 15 grams of protein and only 60 calories.This is one of the reasons Greek yogurt has become such a popular breakfast food: it helps you start your day with a light, protein-packed meal that will keep you going all morning.
The past hundred years has seen a massive revolution in food. The average supermarket contains an abundance of foods that would have been unthinkable even a few generations ago.
But that also introduces what the author Michael Pollan has called “the omnivore’s dilemma,” where the sheer abundance of options creates problems: amidst all this bounty, what are the foods that will be best for your health?
One of the simplest rules of thumb to follow is swapping out high-fat, high-cholesterol foods for lean proteins like chicken, grass-fed beef, pork loin, shrimp, and Greek yogurt. Not only will this have a difference on your waistline, it will also give you more energy, better focus, and an all-around greater sense of wellbeing.