Including protein with each meal is an important building block of a brain-healthy diet. Protein can help manage blood sugar levels, increase meal satiety, and promote the maintenance of lean muscle.
In the last blog post, “Protein and Your Brain, Plant-Based Sources” we discussed the benefits and sources of plant-based protein options. Animal-based proteins can also be incorporated into a brain healthy diet to provide Vitamin B-12 and highly absorbable forms of iron:
- Fish – Provide brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Aim to consume 2-3 servings wild-caught fish per week, focusing on cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. As many fish contain high levels of mercury and other contaminants, avoid shark, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and tuna and refer to the Environmental Working Group website (ewg.org) or the Environmental Protection Agency website (www.epa.gov) for more information about safe seafood choices.
- Eggs – Contain choline and cholesterol, which are essential for brain function. While many people are concerned about eating eggs because they contain cholesterol, consuming the equivalent of 1-2 egg yolks per day hasn’t been shown to significantly elevate blood cholesterol levels. Using eggs as a protein rich breakfast can also help decrease the intake of high carbohydrate and sweetened breakfast items. Eggs can be used as a snack or addition to any meal, as a budget-friendly protein option.
- Poultry – Both chicken and turkey provide easily digested proteins and provide important B-vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron. Moderate consumption of lean poultry has been associated with a healthier body weight and decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Choose 3-4 ounces of organic, pasture-raised poultry 2-3 times per week. Pasture-raised poultry supplies higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised products.
- Dairy Products – The role of dairy products on health remains controversial and for many people, dairy protein is difficult to digest and may be inflammatory. If you choose to consume dairy products, choose primarily low-fat or full-fat unsweetened yogurt or kefir, which contain gut-healthy probiotics. Use cheeses and dairy milk sparingly.
- Red Meat – Red meat consumption has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Risks are even higher for processed red meats, such as bacon or sausage, and should be avoided. If you choose to eat red meat, do so sparingly. Some of the healthiest cultures in the world consume red meat products only on special occasions instead of regularly incorporating it into their diet. The best red meat sources come from grass-fed, organic animals, which provide omega-3 fatty acids, and increased vitamin and mineral contents.
For more information about AFFIRMATIVhealth and the RE:mind program, visit www.affirmativhealth.com.