Mapping out a healthy diet can be tricky. While everyone needs certain vitamins and minerals, no two people are the same, and a diet that’s right for one person might not be suitable or palatable for another.

Personal preference must be considered when planning a diet, as people are more likely to stick with a healthy diet if they enjoy the foods they eat. While fruits and vegetables should be a part of everyone’s diet, people should not overlook the importance of including lean protein in their diets as well.

Choosing which proteins to include in a diet can be tricky. The United States Department of Agriculture notes that not all proteins are created equal in terms of their health benefits. Proteins include foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts, but some can actually lead to negative side effects, including an increased risk for obesity and heart disease.

Why are some proteins potentially troublesome?

The USDA notes that some foods from the protein group are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Such foods include fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb; ground beef that is between 75 and 85 percent lean; regular sausages, hot dogs and bacon; lunch meats like bologna and salami; and duck. Limiting, if not avoiding, such foods can help people maintain healthy cholesterol levels. 

Cholesterol is only found in foods from animal sources, but not all animal-based proteins contribute to high cholesterol. Lean proteins can be great ways to reap the benefits of protein without suffering the negative side effects of proteins that are high in fat and calories. The online medical resource Healthline notes that white-fleshed fish, such as cod and flounder; skinless, white-meat poultry; and pork loin or pork chops are some examples of lean, animal-based proteins.

What do the right proteins do for the body?

The right proteins are vital to a healthy lifestyle. The USDA notes that the following are some of the many characteristics of lean proteins that make them healthy additions to anyone’s diet.

• Nutrient-rich: Lean proteins supply the body with various nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. The B vitamins found in proteins help the body release energy and promote nervous system function. In addition, B vitamins found in protein aid in the formation of red blood cells and help build tissues. Iron carries oxygen to the blood, so the iron found in lean protein can help the body perform a vital function that can prevent fatigue and promote a strong immune system. The zinc in lean protein also helps ensure a properly functioning immune system.

• Healthy bones and muscles: Proteins are building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Proteins can help muscles recover after a workout, and low protein intake can make it harder for the body to absorb calcium, which is vital for bone strength. The body uses the magnesium in lean protein sources to build strong bones and release energy from muscles.

The right protein sources can benefit the body in myriad ways.

— Metro Creative

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