Protein Power

If you want to trim down and beef up, you may be tempted to try a high–protein, low–carb diet. But heed caution — many experts and health organizations discourage replacing your primary energy source entirely with amino acids.

Of course, protein is the building block for hair, nails, muscles, bones, and hormones, and a deficiency, although unlikely, is possible. But before you pack more protein on your plate, understand how much you need… and which source is best.

  • Adult women should get about 46 grams/day (pregnant women 60–70 grams/day) and adult men about 56 grams/day. But activity level and overall calorie needs should also be considered. About 17%–20% of your total calories should come from protein.
  • Meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, and some whole grains like buckwheat and quinoa qualify as complete proteins because they contain adequate amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Incomplete (or complementary) proteins include other grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, which can be combined to create complete proteins. Spread nut butter on whole wheat bread, dip a whole grain pita in hummus, or cook brown rice and lentils for the whole protein picture.
  • When selecting animal protein, go with fish or lean choices like poultry. A juicy steak will certainly boost your protein intake but it’s also high in saturated fat, which doesn’t do your heart any favors.

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