Healthy eating: Four best protein sources your body needs

There are many reasons why one should add plenty of protein-rich foods to their diet. It is understood that proteins help to structure and support the cells, build immunity and are useful for hormone synthesis. Once consumed, proteins break down into amino acids, which are further used for metabolic processes in the body.

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According to Neha Ranglani, an integrative nutritionist and health coach, apart from promoting good health, protein also helps to build, repair and maintain the muscles. “Protein comes from a variety of sources — nuts like almonds, meat, milk, fish, soy, eggs, as well as beans and legumes,” she says.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are confused about what kinds of foods to add to their diet, so as to meet their daily protein requirement. Ranglani says plant-based proteins are easy to digest and have reduced effects on cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes as compared to animal proteins.

“Almonds are one of the best options. They are light, nutritious, and packed with fibres, minerals, vitamin E and magnesium, along with plenty of protein,” the expert states. She lists four such healthy plant-based options of proteins; read on.

1. Almonds: They are a rich source of protein, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Almonds can be consumed raw, soaked, and can also be added to salad bowls. They are an easy and safe option for protein on-the-go. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that a daily snack of 42 grams of almonds — consumed as part of an overall healthy diet — improved several heart disease risk factors, whereas 30 grams/23 almonds may improve type-2 disease factors.

2. Tofu: Like other soy-based foods, tofu contains plant estrogens that may help reduce coronary heart disease factors. It contains iron, calcium, and 12–20 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. While tofu doesn’t have much taste on its own, it easily absorbs the flavour of the ingredients it is prepared with.

3. Chia seeds: Chia seeds are known for their health benefits. The antioxidants, minerals, fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds may promote heart health, support strong bones, and improve blood sugar management. The mild, nutty flavour of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel.

4. Quinoa: Quinoa is a grain crop, which is a good source of a number of important nutrients, including folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron. It is also rich in fibre and protein, nutrients that play an important role in helping you feel full. Adding quinoa to the diet may help promote body weight maintenance, overall health, protect against certain diseases, and improve overall mortality.

“There are also other options like lentils, granola, cottage cheese, chickpeas, peanut butter, edamame, lean beef, canned tuna, etc. Adding protein to your diet should be done cautiously when you are specific about your calorie intake. In a calorie-specific scenario, almonds tend to do justice to your health and calorie scale by restricting your hunger and adding plenty to your protein intake,” Ranglani concludes.

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