The Power of Protein

Protein is vital to your health and crucial to all your body's physiological functions. Consider it the fuel you need to keep all parts of your engine running optimally and on time. Protein can be found in a wide array of foods. Learn how to choose wisely.

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Fish and Shellfish

Fish and shellfish offer high-quality protein. Fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, herring and mackerel are "fatty fish," rich in omega-3s. Unfortunately, most fish and shell fish contain traces of mercury. The recommended allowance of fish per week is 12 ounces, or two fish meals a week.

Generally, larger fish that have lived longer accumulate higher levels of mercury; swordfish, shark, king mackerel are ones to avoid. Tuna steaks have more mercury than canned tuna; white albacore tuna has more mercury than light tuna. Tuna consumption should be limited to 6 ounces a week, or one of your 2 fish meals that week. One can of tuna (42 grams of protein) can provide almost an entire day's worth of protein for a woman (46 grams).

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Eggs and Dairy

Eggs and egg whites are an excellent source of protein. They are also rich in vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin and folate. Eggs are an energy-sustaining food that helps to stave of fatigue. Eggs should be eaten in moderation, as they contain dietary cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease in people with elevated blood cholesterol levels. This cholesterol is found in the yolk; egg whites, on the other hand, are cholesterol free. Low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are also abundant in protein. Cottage cheese is low in carbohydrates and provides 28 grams of protein, just be careful of its sodium levels. Yogurt provides about 14 grams of protein. One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.

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Plant-Based Proteins

Dry beans, lentils, peas and soy/soy products (limited to 2 to 4 servings a week) are excellent and versatile options. Black, pinto, kidney, lima and garbanzo beans offer relatively equal amounts of protein; a serving of kidney beans provides about 15 grams. Beans can be added to soups, salads and used as the main ingredient for an entree. Think burritos, hummus, and yes, even veggie and black bean burgers count. Bonus: all are high in fiber.

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