Dr. Simon Glickman Eating a high-protein diet is not neccessary—or even healthy—for most of us. But, including at least some protein-rich foods in our daily diet is. There are many protein-rich foods. They can be divided into a few major categories:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and other animal products
  • Legumes, nuts, and beans

So does it matter which protein-rich foods you select? It does. As always, choosing a variety of foods is ideal. And when considering where to get your protein it is also important to be aware of the many protein-rich foods that are also rich in fat and cholesterol.

To Reduce Cholesterol and Fat

Full-fat dairy products (eg, whole milk, yogurt, cheese), poultry skin, and many cuts of meat are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol. A high level of cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which can lead to aheart attack.

In addition to having a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat, the American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends reducing your intake of trans fats. Trans fats, commonly listed on the nutrition label as "hydrogenated oil," can be found in many snack foods, like cakes, cookies, and crackers, as well as fast foods, like French fries and onion rings.

By choosing protein-rich foods that are low in cholesterol and unhealthy fats, you may be able to reduce your risk of heart disease.

To Keep Arteries Healthy

Fish is a good source of protein that has less total fat and saturated fat than meat and poultry. Some fish are high in fat, but the fat is mostly omega-3 fatty acids—a type of polyunsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats, both mono and poly, are considered heart healthy. While studies are conflicting, omega-3 fatty acids may be able to prevent arteries from hardening and prevent blood from clotting and sticking to artery walls. With these actions, omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

To Help Lower Blood Pressure

Low-fat dairy products are recommended as part of a hearty-healthy diet. Choosing low-fat dairy products is part of the DASH diet, which is specifically designed to lower blood pressure. It emphasizes the importance of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Some studies have shown that following a DASH diet can decrease the risk of death from cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack.