Whether you’re trying to cut cholesterol, shed a few pounds, or just maintain a balanced, healthy diet, lean protein is your friend. It keeps you full longer (and on fewer calories) than fats or carbohydrates, and provides essential nutrients like amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
When most people think of lean protein, boneless, skinless chicken breast might be the first thing that comes to mind. White-meat poultry like chicken or turkey is a great example of a low fat protein, but other meats fit the bill too, depending on the cut. When choosing pork, for example, steer away from bacon and choose pork tenderloin or trimmed pork chops. Even red meat can be a good choice if you stick to lean types of ground beef, or select cuts with less marbling such as sirloin or eye of round.
Fish is an excellent source of protein, and most varieties of fish and seafood are relatively low in fat. Best of all, fish provides high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a beneficial type of fat associated with reduced rates of heart disease and cancer. Most types of fish cook in just minutes, making it a great solution for quick weeknight dinners.
For vegetarians or those looking to reduce their meat intake, there are several other protein-rich options:
• Eggs have the benefit of being one of the most inexpensive types of proteins, and if you’re counting calories, egg whites are virtually fat-free.
• Low-fat dairy, such as yogurt, cheese and milk, has most of the saturated fat removed, and dairy consumption has recently been recognized as an aid with weight loss.
• Beans and other legumes such as split peas and lentils offer fiber in addition to protein, which make you feel fuller faster, so you’re likely to eat less.
• Nuts and seeds, while higher in fat and calories than the other proteins we’ve mentioned, are full of fiber and good fats which can help lower cholesterol, and make good choices for snacking.