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High quality protein is any food source rich in protein and nutrients and containing little or no cholesterol or saturated fats. Foods that are high in protein are essential to the body's development and overall functioning, and they play a pivotal role in the creation and maintenance of muscle mass. In addition to individual foods, high quality protein is also available as nutritional supplements — usually in powder form — and as protein bars.
Consuming sensible amounts of high quality protein at each meal has many benefits for the human body. It creates the sensation of being full and thereby functions as an appetite suppressant, signaling to the brain that the stomach has had enough to eat. The body also converts into carbohydrates. Given the nutrient-rich qualities of the protein consumed, the body is more apt to process them as carbohydrates than as fat. This also helps the body burn calories when at rest.
Traditional nutrition studies have suggested that animal-derived foods are the only sources of high quality protein. While it is true that certain meats prepared correctly are indeed rich in protein, more and more evidence has emerged that vegetable-sourced foods can be just as protein-packed. The proteins gleaned from vegetables contain little — if any — cholesterol, and the body has a much easier time absorbing protein that comes from vegetable sources.
Certain meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy products offer excellent sources of protein. Roast beef, roast chicken, and fish are exceptionally high in protein content, as are cheese and milk.
Some vegetables and grains can also provide considerable supplies of protein. Wheat, rice, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, and lentils are ideal examples. Tofu and soy milk can also be high in protein content and offer a nutritious alternative for those who don't eat meat.
It is easy to garner the necessary amounts of protein, especially before a workout or while on the go, by using high quality protein supplements. Protein powder can be made into healthful shakes; protein powder is available in a variety of types, including rice protein, soy protein, and high quality whey protein. Bars can be packed with an abundance of protein and are prepared in a variety of flavors. When consumed before or after a workout, protein bars help boost energy levels and support the growth of muscle mass.
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