For anyone who is conscious of their health and weight, ‘lean protein’ is a term that gets a lot of use, but many people don’t actually know what it means. Many of us have been introduced to paleo eating, Atkins dieting, and low-carb meals that encourage higher and leaner protein consumption. For those of us trying to keep up with the newest healthy diet trends, it can be hard to decode foodie jargon, and jump on the bandwagon — so here is your guide to lean proteins.
Lean proteins are foods that are rich in protein, animal or vegetarian-based, and are low in fat. Usually this means there are more calories coming from protein, rather than from carbohydrates or fat. Lean proteins keep us full for longer and build muscle while burning fat. Pretty desirable, right? By increasing lean protein you will be decreasing trans-fats, certain saturated fats, and simple, refined sugars. This improves our figure and body composition, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar balance. Now it’s time to breakdown where to find these amazing lean proteins.
Fish is one of the best examples of lean proteins. Our seafood friends tend to be lower in saturated fat, yet higher in good fats such as omega 3’s. They have high source of concentrated protein, ranging from 51-94%, according to Jonathan Bailor’s The Calorie Myth. If you’re confused about which fish are safe and which are harmful, check out this article on Slice. Not sure what to cook using fish? Make a delicious whole grain mustard, balsamic, honey and sea salt marinade, then top the fish with fresh parsley and bake.
Poultry with White Meat
The white meat of chicken and turkey is the star of the lean protein world. While eating all parts of the chicken and turkey is more economical and delicious, if you’re concerned about keeping it lean, stick to skinless white meat like chicken breasts. This part of the bird is lower in fat. Chicken or turkey breasts can be cooked in a variety of ways, from slow cooking to grilling or roasting. Pair this lean protein with some greens and you are definitely on your way to a leaner, cleaner start.
Eggs are fairly inexpensive lean proteins, which are quick and easy to cook. If you’re feeling tired and hungry, eggs are a magic food that will fill you up and deliver great nutrients to your cells — there’s about 6-7 grams of protein in each egg! The yolk contains some saturated fat, but it is healthy fat, making eggs a complete, whole food. If you’re going that extra mile to eat really lean proteins on a regular basis, tossing away the yolk increases the protein content. But, eating a whole egg offers more nutrition than just the egg white. Scrambled, over-easy, made into omelets or egg salad, this versatile protein is good for any meal, any time of day.
Lean Red Meat
Red meat is not always recommended for everyone, but if you love red meat and are managing your weight, diabetes or cholesterol, leaner meats are a healthier option. They might be slightly less flavourful, since the fat is what makes hamburgers and steaks so juicy and tasty. Try opting for a grass-fed cut. This will make it leaner with less marbling of fat, without lessening the protein content (red meat is anywhere from 51%-75% concentrated protein). Make into burgers or grill it and then toss on top of a great salad.
Soy beans, Beans, Lentils, Legumes
These vegetarian sources of protein are super versatile. While their protein content might not be as concentrated as animal proteins, they still offer a ton of benefits. Pair with a grain such as brown rice or quinoa, to make a ‘complete protein’ and to get the whole amino acid profile.
Eating leaner cuts of protein is really great for helping to achieve your health goals. A higher concentration of protein is very beneficial for keeping hormones in check, blood sugar steady, and muscles pumping! Now that you know where to find these lean proteins, it’s time to get cooking!
Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.