Why Dieticians Recommend Eating Lean Protein Like Tilapia
- Lean protein has benefits for hair and nails, bones, muscles, skin and blood, and can also help you lose weight.
- Our body doesn’t store excess protein anywhere, so regular consumption is important.
- Lean protein like Tilapia has a lot of benefits that make it a healthy addition to any meal.
Our bodies require three macronutrients in our daily diet: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Many food options incorporate all three, but we need to get enough protein to ensure our bodies are nourished. Some folks tout extremely high protein diets while others recommend a more moderate approach. Ultimately, the amount of protein you eat is up to you, but there are benefits to having a protein rich diet and eating many different foods with protein.
The Benefits of Protein
Protein is one of the building blocks of the human body and is needed by every cell, from hair and nails, to bones, muscles, skin and blood. Essentially long chains of amino acids, protein helps build and maintain muscle mass. It also keeps you full longer in between meals, stabilizes blood sugar and may even help your mood. Because the body cannot store protein (unlike fat and carbs), the human body has no reservoir to draw on and you should eat it every day.
How Much Protein to Eat and What Kind
Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s calories from protein foods. However, all proteins are not created equal. Some high protein foods (for example, steak) are also high in saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease. For this reason, it is important to choose lean protein—that is, a protein source that has only 2 to 3 grams of fat per serving. One of the best lean proteins you can eat is seafood, and the FDA recommends eating 8 ounces of fish per week. If you meet this goal, you’ll be well on your way to getting plenty of protein.
Fish, eggs, shellfish, skinless poultry and pork are all good sources of lean protein. Eggs offer 6 grams of protein each. Tilapia has a great fat to protein ratio; 21 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat in a 4-ounce fillet. Chicken is also a great protein source with 26.5 grams in a 3-ounce breast. But animal products aren’t the only foods that offer protein, and it’s great to have balance in your diet by eating protein from multiple sources.
There are many great plant-based protein sources, such as edamame (which delivers a whopping 17 grams of protein per cup). Tofu, lentils and quinoa all also have high protein counts. But plant-based proteins also lack some necessary amino acids. To get all the different amino acids your body needs, it’s important to eat a variety of plant-based foods every day.
Why Dieticians Recommend Lean Protein
Dieticians like Bonnie Taub-Dix recommend eating fish. “Fish is one of the richest sources of heart-healthy, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.” Protein has many benefits, and “leaner sources will give you the best bang for your buck without including as much harmful saturated fat and cholesterol [as fattier sources].” Lean protein helps you feel full for longer, and can even help with weight loss.
To make sure you’re getting enough lean protein in your diet, just remember to eat a variety of different proteins from both animal and plant sources, and to combine protein with carbohydrates and healthy fats to get the best nutritional mix.
Looking for some meal ideas? Try Greek yogurt, blueberries and walnuts for breakfast, or sustainably-grown Regal Springs Tilapia on a bed of brown rice with fruit salsa for dinner. You will meet your protein needs while getting plenty of other vitamins and nutrients.
Feeling motivated to eat more protein? We have a bunch of great options. Check out Post-Workout Meals: 6 Tilapia Recipes with 30 Grams of Protein or More and 7 High-Protein Breakfasts for tips on how to get more protein in your diet.
Photo credit: Kzenon / Shutterstock Inc., Regal Springs, Syda Production / Shutterstock Inc.