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Protein Power

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Steamed Black-eyed Peas
High quality protein is a cornerstone of the Positively Ageless eating plan. Not only does protein help us to maintain and build muscle, it also contributes to satiety or fullness.
Image of Red Kidney Beans
And when combined with carbohydrate, such as a piece of fruit, it helps to sustain our blood sugar levels longer. This results in more energy -- more get-up-and-go to exercise and stay active. For all of these reasons, it's best to include lean protein with every snack and every meal.

The current Recommended Daily Allowance for protein—the amount that people are supposed to get each day—is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for adults. I recommend a guideline of 30 percent of your daily calories to be contributed by protein (with 45 percent from carbohydrate and 25 percent from fat). This is a little higher than the RDA, but to maintain a healthy strong body, you need to exercise and build or maintain muscle. (Remember – strong is sexy!)

Experts are discovering that many older people aren’t getting enough protein in their diets . . . and that the 0.8 gram per kilogram recommendation may not be enough in the first place. Whether or not your goal is weight loss, if you’re trying to build muscle (and burn fat), it’s crucial that your protein needs are met. Individual protein recommendations vary per person, depending on weight and body composition. If you have any health conditions, such as kidney disease, that may affect your protein requirements, consult with your medical provider to determine your protein requirement.

Remember to include protein with each meal and each snack so your body can use it throughout the day. There’s plenty to choose from in three different protein groups: animal protein, low (or fat free) dairy protein and vegetarian protein.
  • Choose a variety of proteins each day in order to meet your calorie goal.
  • Limit your servings of lean red meat to twice a week. Red meat tends to be higher in saturated fat.
  • Fish is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and selenium. Cold water fishes contain more hearty healthy fats – they also have more calories.
  • Avoid all processed meats -- bologna, hot dogs, sausage; they’re generally high in fat and calories. They may also contain nitrites, which can form cancer-causing compounds.
Top choices include skim (fat-free) milk, low-fat (1%) milk, buttermilk, plain fat free (or low fat) yogurt, fat free (or low fat) yogurt with fruit (no sugar added), fat free or low fat Greek-style yogurt, fat free (or low fat) cottage cheese, fat free or low fat ricotta cheese.

In selecting fish, try to choose wild (not farm-raised) fish and seafood that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fish include salmon, sardines (water-packed), herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna. Meat Lean cuts, such as pork tenderloin, lean cuts of beef including round, chuck, sirloin or tenderloin. USDA Choice or USDA Select grades of beef usually have lower fat content. Avoid meat that is heavily marbled and remove any visible fat. Try to find ground meat that is at least 95% lean.

Leanest poultry is the skinless white meat from the breast of chicken or turkey. Egg whites are an excellent source of protein and are fat free.

Protein Excellent sources of vegetarian protein include beans, legumes and a variety of traditional soy foods. Most of these are also loaded with fiber. One of the most attractive things about vegetarian protein is its pricetag. Beans and legumes are an incredible bargain for a very high quality protein source.

Here is a recipe that's loaded with lean high quality protein. It's delicious, freezes well and takes minutes to make:

Kidney Bean Stew
Makes eight one-cup servings
Image of Kidney Bean Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Chopped Garlic
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon dry oregano
1 pkg. Melissa’s Steamed Red Kidney Beans (about 1-3/4 cups)
1 pkg. Melissa’s Steamed Black-eyed Peas, (about 1 ¾ cups), divided
3 cups fat free low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups chopped arugula or kale or spinach
Salt and pepper

Melissa’s Spicy Chipotle Garnishing Sauce
Fresh Cilantro Leaves

In a 4 quart saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté for about five minutes, until softened but not browned. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Do not brown garlic. Add tomatoes and spices and simmer for about five minutes. Add two cups of the broth, all of the kidney beans and ¾ cup of the black-eyed peas. Place the remaining 1 cup of black-eyed peas and 1 cup of broth in the bowl of a food processor or jar of a blender. Add the cilantro and process or blend to purée. Add puréed mixture to the stew. Add arugula to the stew and heat just until wilted. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot. Makes about 8 cups of stew. This dish also freezes well.

You can substitute any combination of Melissa’s Steamed Beans: Favas, LentilsSix Bean Medley, etc.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 130
Total Fat g 2.5
Sat Fat g 0
Cholesterol mg 0
Sodium mg 300
Total Carb g 21
Dietary Fiber g 6
Sugar g 5
Protein g 7
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