Power Up the Protein in Your Diet

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Now is a great time to talk about new research on protein and good health. There are a number of recent studies that suggest protein may have health benefits such as weight loss and maintenance, retaining muscle mass as we age and even helping lower risk of disease. Studies are looking at high-quality protein for health benefits, rather than preventing a deficiency. And the research is suggesting that a little more protein, may actually be good for you.

The perception about protein consumption is that Americans are eating adequate or even too much protein. But research suggests Americans may actually benefit from eating moderate protein levels in their diet. “Moderate protein levels” means eating high-quality protein at every meal, including breakfast. High-quality protein foods provide all the amino acids the body needs and are easily digested by the body. Beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese are all high-quality protein foods.

Health benefits from a moderate protein diet include:

Healthy Weight – Eat more protein with your meals and snacks and you’ll feel full longer, which helps control hunger and cravings, resulting in fewer calories consumed. You may also improve body composition while losing weight, and keep more muscle while losing more body fat. Research has also found a higher-protein diet helps maintain weight loss; people are less likely to regain weight that has been lost. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that, with a calorie-controlled diet, animal protein had a more positive effect on weight loss/maintenance than protein from plants.

Aging – Increasing protein in the diet as people age can help stimulate muscle growth and reduce the loss of muscle that naturally occurs with age (sarcopenia). Sarcopenia results in loss of muscle and increases the risk of fractures and disability. Protein is also important for bone health as studies have found calcium is better absorbed when protein is present.

Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – A diet with more high-quality protein and less carbs, especially processed carbohydrates, has been found to have a positive effect on risk factors for heart disease, and may even help control or possibly prevent type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar levels.

Include lean, high-quality protein with every meal to get these and other health benefits for good health. The lean ground pork used in the recipe below is a high-quality protein and affordable. For more information on protein and how it may help improve your health, talk to a Hy-Vee dietitian.

Ground Pork Burrito

Serves 8

All you need

1 cup Hy-Vee uncooked long-grain brown rice

8 (10-in) whole grain or sprouted grain flour tortillas

Hy-Vee olive oil nonstick spray

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 pound ground pork

1 (15-oz) can Hy-Vee no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tbsp Hy-Vee chili powder

1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

2 cups purchased fresh salsa

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

3 cups shredded green leaf lettuce

All you do

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. Set aside and keep warm. Wrap tortillas in foil; heat in oven for 10 minutes or until warm.

3. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add ground pork; cook for 10 minutes or until pork is browned, using a spoon to break up larger chunks of pork. Stir in beans, chili powder and cilantro. Cook for 2 minutes or until heated through.

4. Place ½ cup ground pork mixture onto each tortilla. Top with rice, salsa, tomatoes, and lettuce. Fold in the sides of tortilla and roll up.

Nutrition facts per serving: 430 calories, 13g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol,

410mg sodium, 57g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, 22g protein

Source: Hy-Vee Balance, May Issue

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.