'Eat Right' Challenge, Protein - Day 9

Emma White - Nutritionist

What protein foods should I be eating?

If you are trying to lose weight or follow a 'clean eating' programme, you should eat lean protein. What do we mean by 'lean protein'? These are foods that contain low levels of fat and saturated fat, meaning the protein is delivered to you in a 'healthier' package!

There are different types of protein depending on the source – animal protein and vegetable protein. Both provide valuable amino acids in our diet, i.e. the building block for protein.

Lean protein examples

  • Chicken – breast meat and no skin
  • Turkey – the breast meat rather than dark, such as leg as this contains more fat. And no skin
  • Whitefish – such as cod, haddock, plaice
  • Plain yogurt (Greek yogurt or Skyr type yogurts are often higher in protein)
  • Low-fat milk
  • Beans, pulses such as lentils and chickpeas
  • Quorn
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and seeds

What protein food should I limit?

Protein foods come with the general benefit of being more satisfying than other types of food. However, like carbs, the type of protein you choose is essential as there are other health aspects to consider. For example, fat content, particularly saturated fat, and salt.

Red meats tend to have a higher sat fat content, and processed meats including bacon and sausages contain other additives such as salt and nitrites. The link between saturated fats affecting heart health is well known, and high levels of nitrites may be linked to increased cancer risk.

But what about the Atkins Diets?

A few years ago, the Atkins Diet was all the rage. People were apparently eating huge fry ups and losing weight – no wonder it attracted so many fans! It worked because it effectively cut carb intake and increased protein food, which is basically what the Keto diet does – but to a greater extreme. The difference is Atkins focuses on protein, while Keto focuses on carbs – and Atkins gradually increases your carb intake over time, where Keto does not.

The main issue with the message encouraging huge fry ups is that people also eat a lot of fat, saturated fat and salt. So for all-round health benefits and long term weight maintenance, this isn't really the healthiest way to go.

Protein foods higher in fat/sat fat/salt

  • Steak
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Sausages
  • Bacon
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Full-fat milk
  • Crème Fraîche
  • Cream

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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