A Few Healthy Alternative Proteins

By: Michele Wolfson

Recently we've been featuring tips and recipes on how to go vegan because of National Vegan Month. But for those of you who aren't quite sold on giving up meat just yet, there are still dozens of choices you can make to still live a healthier life. The first one includes choosing healthier proteins.

There is no denying that a porterhouse steak provides a large source of protein-38 grams worth. But it also delivers 44 grams of fat, 16 of them saturated. That's almost three-fourths of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat. Salmon is also packed with protein and contains 18 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat, but from an environmental and health perspective- it's better to eat smaller fish as a source of protein.

Farm-raised salmon is especially unhealthy because they are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides and carcinogens such as dioxin or PCBs. Furthermore, little fish are becoming endangered because it takes five pounds of wild-caught sardines, anchovies, and other forage fish to produce a pound of farmed salmon. Avoid consuming large predatory fish, particularly swordfish, mackerel, shark and salmon because they may contain high levels of methyl-mercury. Fish absorb methyl-mercury from water, aquatic plants and from their prey. Mercury binds tightly to the proteins in fish tissue, including muscle, and cooking does not reduce the mercury content significantly.

High levels of contaminants such as mercury, PCBs, and dioxins in our environment and waters make eating certain fish on a regular basis extremely dangerous. That fact should not be taken to mean you should avoid fish entirely. Instead, try consuming more sardines. They are loaded with omega-3s, which protect your heart, combat arthritis and depression, fortify against cancer and even fight wrinkles. Sardines also contain the highest amount of calcium of any fish. Just two tiny sardines give you as much calcium as 1/3 cup of milk, as well as a full day's supply of B12.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have had it right when they went bonkers for anchovies and had it as their favorite topping on their pizza. Like sardines, anchovies rank among the most nutritious and cleanest foods one can eat. It is also a forage fish that is high in omega-3s and low in mercury. Both sardines and anchovies provide significant protein in each 3.5-ounce serving. Canned anchovies contribute 29 grams of protein, or about 58 percent of the minimum daily value for protein.

Ground turkey meat has recently been shown to fall into the group of foods that are high in protein. Studies now show a clear difference between intake of red meats (like beef) and intake of white meats (like turkey) with respect to certain activities in our digestive tract. It is lower in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium than many other of its meat counterparts. Turkey is a great source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids. By choosing products that are lower in fat and sodium, you can make sure that the turkey you eat is a healthy choice. The protein content of turkey all closely depend upon the diet that the turkey has been fed so choose turkey that is fed a healthy diet.

A protein packed alternative to grains is quinoa. Packed with nutrients and nutty flavor, it's related to leafy greens but often used as a grain. This super food is a completel protein. Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup. Try making a quinoa dish with lentils, another vegetarian protein that is high in protein and low in fat, to make a meal that is both nutritious and delicious.

Photo: coral_abi

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