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Healthy Protein Suggestions For A More Satisfying Salad, Part 2

Continuing on from our recent tip on adding healthy fats and grains to your salads, here are some suggestions for incorporating healthy protein into your salads to keep you satisfied longer. 

Legumes: 

  • Beans: Beans are rich in folic acidmagnesiumpotassium, B vitamins, and soluble fiber.  And at 20-25 percent protein by weight, they are an excellent choice for vegetarians, vegans or those who prefer to minimize their meat consumption. They are low-glycemic-index foods and an important part of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. Good examples are chickpeas (garbanzo beans), adzuki beans, and black beans. You can also use hummus (made from chickpeas) as a creamy, high-protein dressing!
  • Lentils: As the quickest legume to cook, lentils offer a good source of fiber, magnesium, protein, and iron. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains over 15 grams of dietary fiber and provides 37 percent of the Daily Value for iron. 

Animal Proteins: 

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: Egg whites are a great source of protein, and the yolks contain an astonishing array of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, E and K, plus iron. Choose cage-free eggs that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Salmon: Like other oily fish (herring, sardines, mackerel), salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, protect against heart attacks, and possibly reduce one's chance of developing cancer. Choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon to avoid the contaminants in farm-raised fish.

Dried Beans vs. Canned Beans: What’s Healthier?

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiberThe health benefits of beans are numerous: they are an excellent source of protein and fiber, are high in folic acid, and are a low-glycemic-index food. Buts some beans - both the varieties and the way they are cooked - are actually healthier than others. When choosing beans, consider the following:

  1. The most nutritious varieties of beans are black, red, kidney and pinto beans. Black beans have the most antioxidant activity of any bean choice.
  2. To get the most soluble fiber from your beans, choose navy beans: one cup of cooked navy beans provides 19 grams of fiber!
  3. When using dried beans, don't simmer them in water until done and discard the liquid - up to 70 percent of the antioxidants that beans provide end up in the simmering liquid. Instead, simmer the beans until they are done and then let them soak the nutrients back in by leaving them in the liquid for an hour.
  4. Consider pressure cooking - dried beans that were soaked and then cooked in a pressure cooker were shown to retain the most antioxidant value.
  5. The easiest (and healthiest) route? Buy canned beans. Canned kidney and pinto beans are two of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, as the heat of the canning process enhances the availability of nutrients in the beans. Choose low- or no-sodium versions of canned beans when possible.

I recommend one to two servings of beans and legumes per day - easy to do if you swap out meat for beans in salads and sandwiches, and make hummus or bean dip part of an afternoon snack.

Learn more about healthy eating from Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.