Fish is a healthy, lean protein.
Protein and carbohydrates aren't negotiable; you need both for nutrients and energy. Yet they both pose potential problems. Many proteins are high in saturated fats that cause cardiovascular disease, while unhealthy carbs contribute to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Choosing lean proteins and good carbs helps ensure you get sufficient nutrition without the downside.
Lean Protein Definition
The USDA defines lean meat as having less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce portion. The food exchange system defines lean protein as a 1-ounce serving that has 2 to 3 grams of fat. That’s equal to the total fat in the USDA’s recommendation but with a smaller serving. The goal is to balance your daily consumption to meet American Heart Association recommendations for fat intake. Limit total fat to 25 to 35 percent of daily calories, saturated fat to no more than 7 percent of daily calories and cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams daily.
Lean Protein Sources
The white meat from chicken and turkey and dark meat without the skin are good choices for lean protein. Fish provides lean protein together with omega-3 fatty acids that lower cholesterol and inhibit inflammation. Cuts of beef that meet the standards for lean meat include sirloin, flank steak, rump roast, top loin, top round and extra lean ground beef. Pork center loin and tenderloin are lean choices. Low-fat dairy products also qualify as sources of lean protein. Quinoa is a low-fat grain that’s a complete protein. Beans and legumes are naturally low-fat sources of protein. Depending on the type of bean, 1 cup may have 12 to 20 grams of protein and .5 to 1.5 grams of fat.
All carbohydrates are made from molecules of sugar, but they’re classified according to the number of molecules. Simple carbs, such as sucrose, or table sugar, only have one or two sugar molecules. Complex carbs - starches and fiber - consist of long chains of sugar molecules. Either type of sugar can be a good carb because the quality depends on whether the food source contains fiber and nutrients. Fiber slows down the rate at which the sugars are absorbed and that keeps blood sugar balanced. Simple sugars are quickly absorbed and cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Any high-sugar low-fiber baked good contains bad carbs. Fruits contain the simple sugar fructose, but most fruits are good carbs because they have fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals. Whole grains are good carbs, but if the grains are processed into white flour or white rice they lose fiber and nutrients and become bad carbs. Beans and vegetables are foods that have fiber, starches and nutrients, so they’re good carbs. One way to distinguish good carbs from bad carbs is through their glycemic score, which indicates their effect on blood sugar. The good carbs, or low glycemic foods, have a score of 55 or less.