Protein is an essential component to any healthy nutrition plan. Our bodies thrive on protein and our muscles are created from it, which makes it even more important to eat when you exercise on a regular basis. Protein also helps to fill you up and give you sustained energy throughout the day. Because our bodies do not have the ability to produce all proteins by themselves, it’s essential we obtain it from healthy whole food sources, which is why every meal on my F.I.T. program includes a healthy protein source. I like to obtain my protein requirements from as many natural food sources I can and then supplement with an organic natural, vegan protein powder only if I need a protein boost. If you aren’t quite sure what protein-rich foods you should be eating, here’s a list of my top 5 recommendations.
1. Lean Meat and Fish
Meat and fish are a source of complete protein and good fats that are essential for brain and organ function. If you are eating fish try and stick to wild-caught, and eat a variety of different types like salmon, tuna and barramundi. When it comes to your meat sources try and stick to organic, hormone free if possible and grass fed.
Legumes like chickpeas and lentils, are an excellent source of protein, low in fat, a good source of fibre, folate, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium. They’re also rich in antioxidants and have a low-GI, which means they provide the body with sustained energy. Although legumes are among our most nutritious plant foods, they can cause bloating and intestinal gas. If you are not used to eating them, slowly introduce them into your healthy eating plan. Legumes are a great addition to salads, curries and soups.
Like meat, eggs are a great source of protein and that are also extremely high in nutrients. They contain vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones and teeth; choline, which is necessary for brain development and improving memory retention; calcium for healthy bones and teeth; and iron and selenium for other health benefits. A large egg contains less than 100 calories, which is why they are great to eat on a regular basis. I always have at least 1 whole egg with my egg whites as they contain far more nutrients and a higher amount of protein than the egg whites, as well as containing good fats that are necessary for optimal body and brain function. Like your meats try and get organic free-range eggs that are free from hormones. My favourite way to eat eggs, is poached with some wild-caught salmon and dark leafy greens.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are a great healthy source of protein and good fats. Unsalted walnuts and almonds, in particular, are a great source of healthy fats, antioxidants, protein and fibre. Polyunsaturated fats found in nuts are great for skin, hair, teeth and nail health. They can lower cholesterol and are a perfect ‘pick me up’ during the afternoon. My favourite nuts are almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews. I like to have a small handful as a snack or chuck them in my salad for an extra crunch.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain that is highly nutritious and gluten-free. It’s a good choice for vegetarians as it contains more protein than any other grain or seed, with a good balance of all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa is also high in fibre, has a low-GI and is a source of iron, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, and vitamin E. Quinoa is a great replacement to rice, pasta or to bulk up a salad.