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How to maintain your protein intake if you’re fasting from meat for Lent.

By Kimberly Suraj, Registered Dietician, Dragonfly Nutrition

During the Lenten period, many Catholics fast from eating meat.

While all meats such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, wild meat are avoided, it is important to do it safely and ensure you substitute with another source of protein that is allowed during fasting.

Protein in the diet is important for building and renewal of cells, healing of wounds in the body, and producing hormones and enzymes for proper functioning, growth and development especially in children and pregnant women. Therefore, the importance of having some source of protein in the diet even during fasting is important. Here are some alternatives:

FISH

Some studies show that replacing meat with fish as a source of protein in the diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, since fish especially fatty fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (also known as heart healthy fats).

Examples of fatty fish are sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel, and herring.

Fish is also considered low in fat (lean), and low in “bad fat” found usually in red meats and high in protein (animal source).

Depending on age as well as health circumstances, some people should limit the amounts of fish they eat: young children and pregnant women as excessive consumption of mercury-contaminated fish (shark, tilefish, swordfish, or king mackerel) can severely impact a child’s development.

However, people can eat a variety of low mercury fish and shellfish such as canned light tuna, catfish, salmon, and pollock.

PEAS & BEANS

Peas and beans are low in fat. They come from a plant source, therefore contain no cholesterol, have both soluble and insoluble fibre (which helps with bowel movement as well as decreasing cholesterol), contain folate, potassium (needed for regulation of the heart beat) and magnesium.  Peas and beans contain amino acids but are missing one amino acid to make it a complete protein or rich source of protein. Usually when the peas or beans are combined with a grain (which contains the missing amino acid in the peas or beans) then it becomes complete.

SOYA & TOFU

These have benefits also, as they are considered a complete source of protein (which simply means they contain all the essential amino acids that is needed in the diet). They also contain manganese, calcium, vitamin B1. It is believed to lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Tofu contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones; these are a group of chemicals found in plant foods. They are similar in structure to the female hormone estrogen, and, therefore imitate the action of estrogen that is produced by the body. They bind to estrogen receptor sites in the body including breast cells and therefore possibly reducing the risk of breast cancer.

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