The Right Protein

The Right Protein

When choosing what to eat for a Heart Healthy Diet look for high-quality lean protein, which is important for maintaining and repairing muscle tissue, and for maintaining healthy bones. Most of these also contain other important nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins.To keep your blood cholesterol level low, choose only the leanest meats, poultry, fish and shellfish.

Healthy Protein Options

  • Choose chicken and turkey without skin or remove skin before eating.
  • Some fish, like cod, have less saturated fat than either chicken or meat.
  • Since even the leanest meat, chicken, fish, and shellfish have saturated fat and cholesterol, limit the total amount you eat to 6 ounces or less per day.
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu and tempeh (made from soybeans)
  • Quinoa and other whole grains.

When shopping for poultry

In general, chicken and turkey are low in saturated fat, especially when the skin is removed. You can buy chicken and turkey pieces with the skin already removed. Or buy pieces with the skin on and remove it yourself before eating. It is easy to do. Remember, the white meat itself always contains less saturated fat than the dark meat.


Limit goose and duck. They are high in saturated fat, even with the skin removed. Try fresh ground turkey or chicken that is made from white meat like the breast. Remember that some chicken and turkey hot dogs are lower in saturated fat and total fat than pork and beef hot dogs. There are also “lean” beef hot dogs and vegetarian (made with tofu) franks that are low in fat and saturated fat.

When shopping for fish and shellfish

Most fish is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than meat or poultry.
Shellfish varies in cholesterol content. Shellfish have little saturated fat and total fat. Even shrimp can be enjoyed occasionally on a Heart Healthy Diet provided you eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. For example, 3 ounces of steamed shrimp has 167 milligrams of cholesterol.

Meat Substitutes

Dry peas and beans and tofu (bean curd) are great meat substitutes that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Dry peas and beans also have a lot of fiber, which can help to lower blood cholesterol. Try adding a ½ cup beans to pasta, soups, casseroles, and vegetable dishes. Tofu takes on the flavor of marinades well. Try marinating tofu in a nonfat dressing or a tangy sauce and grilling or baking for a heart healthy dish

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