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Define Lean Protein

By Yvonne Hayton ; Updated July 18, 2017

Protein is essential in your diet to renew and repair cells, build muscle and meet 10 to 15 per cent of your body's energy requirements. Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which cannot be made or stored by the body and must be provided by your daily diet. However, the quality of protein foods varies. Eating lean protein helps lower cholesterol levels and decreases the risk of developing heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

Definition of Lean Protein

Lean protein has less than 3 g of fat and around 50 calories per serving, according to both the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic recommends women have at least 46 g of protein and men 56 g of protein each day. Complete lean proteins -- meaning they supply all of the nine essential amino acids required by the body -- can be found in meat and fish.

Meat and Poultry Sources

Lean protein meat sources include: chicken and turkey breast, or dark meat with the skin removed; lean beef; roast veal and lamb, or lean chops; pork tenderloin or fresh ham; luncheon meats with 3 g or less of fat per ounce and wild game, such as buffalo, ostrich, rabbit and venison. Limit your intake of beef, veal, lamb, pork and game to two servings per week.

Fish Sources

Lean protein fish sources include smoked herring, fresh or frozen cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, salmon, trout, tuna and sardines. Lean shellfish sources include oysters, clams, crab, imitation shellfish, lobster, scallops and shrimp. Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which the body needs to boost brain function, reduce inflammation and improve heart health, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Other Sources

Lean protein is also found in cheese with less than 3 g of fat per ounce, cottage cheese and milk and milk products, such as yogurt and cheese. All are sources of complete proteins, as are soy beans. Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids, but lean sources include egg whites, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and grain. Small amounts of lean protein are also found in some vegetables.

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