Your body can store any food as fat, but it can only make protein from other proteins--and every cell in your body needs proteins. Your body needs protein to make enzymes, hormones, and tissues; use vitamins and minerals; and keep the immune system strong. When it doesn't get the proteins it needs from food, your body uses its own protein, even if that means destroying muscle to get it. So, to be energetic and healthy and youthful, you should eat protein every day. Ideally, lean protein should fill one-third of your plate at lunch and dinner.
For some people, doing this is easy and natural; others need to make an effort to get enough protein, or to get the right kind of protein. The foods listed here are all excellent sources of high-quality protein, but the first choice selections are slightly lower in saturated fat.
Note: Beans are a low-fat source of protein, but they are not a complete protein, and they contain carbohydrates, too. If you are counting exchanges, an exchange of beans counts as one protein and one grain exchange. Beans are listed with Grains.
Try to have some of the first choice selections at each meal and even at each snack. Protein helps keep the sugar in your blood at a steady level: for the reasons, see How what we eat affects blood sugar.
These proteins--fish, white meat, soy, game meats--are the best for your heart. Each first choice protein exchange contains about:
These proteins--red meats and fattier poultry--are slightly higher in saturated fat and not as healthy for your heart. Each second choice protein exchange contains about:
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