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What Is Lean Protein?What Is Lean Protein?


Lean protein foods are rich in protein and limited in less healthy nutrients, such as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Some sources of lean protein also contain beneficial plant chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

How much lean protein should I eat?

Protein should account for 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories. That’s 50 to 175 grams per day for an adult on a 2,000 calorie eating plan. To control total calories, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol intake, choose lean protein sources over foods such as high-fat dairy and processed or fatty cuts of meat.

What are sources for lean protein?

Seek out nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories and unhealthy fats and that provide valuable vitamins and minerals. Below are both animal and plant-based foods that are good sources of lean protein.

  • Poultry (white meat) is lower in calories and saturated fat than many other meats.
  • Fish is rich in heart-healthy fats.
  • Low-fat milk and yogurt contain calcium.
  • Egg whites provide protein with very little fat.
  • Beans and lentils contain dietary fiber and plant nutrients that fight disease.
  • Peas provide dietary fiber.
  • Soy foods (edamame, tofu) are low in unhealthy fat.
  • Mushrooms are low in calories and can contain vitamin D.
  • Nuts and nut butters contain heart healthy fats.
  • Seeds supply vitamins and minerals.
Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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