Protein is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. Foods containing protein are also good sources of vitamins and minerals which work together to keep us healthy.
Pulses include beans, lentils and peas. They are a low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and they count towards your recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. One portion is 80g, which is equivalent to around three heaped tablespoons of cooked pulses. Pulses can be particularly important for people who do not get protein by eating meat, fish or dairy products.
A pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod. Pulses include all beans, peas and lentils, such as:
– red, green, yellow and brown lentils
– chickpeas (chana or garbanzo beans)
– garden peas
– black-eyed peas
– runner beans
– broad beans (fava beans)
– kidney beans, butter beans (Lima beans), haricots, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, pinto beans and borlotti beans
You can add pulses to soups, casseroles and meat sauces to add extra texture and flavour. This means you can use less meat, which makes the dish lower in fat.
Pulses are a good source of iron and are a starchy food so add fibre to your meal. Eating a diet high in fibre is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as being a source of protein, they also contain vitamins and minerals. They can be part of a healthy meal that’s quick and easy to make. Eggs are a good source of:
– vitamin D
– vitamin A
– vitamin B2
– vitamin B12
Nuts are also sources of protein and are high in fibre so are an alternative to snacks high in saturated fat, but they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.
Fish is another important source of protein, and contains many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can often be high in salt.
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12. Try to eat lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat.