Protein…the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential in building and maintaining muscle. It is found throughout the body…in bone, hair, muscle, skin and almost every other body part or tissue.

Where can protein be found? It is found in mostly in the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups, however, it can also be found in smaller amounts in the Vegetables and Fruits and Grain Products food groups.

The general recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day (or 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight).

The Good…
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. Essential amino acids come from food. We get the majority of the amino acids we need from animal sources. Other protein sources such as grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit lack one or more essential amino acids.

Research shows two things:
• Protein can support muscle recovery after exercise.
• Eating healthy protein sources like beans, chicken, fish and nuts, in place of red meat (including processed red meat), can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death.

The Bad…
Because non-meat sources of protein lack some essential amino acids, vegetarians need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids their body needs.

Protein supplements have not been shown to be better than protein-rich foods like those found in the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups for building muscle. Consuming more protein supplement than recommended does not mean that you will be building more muscles.

The Ugly…
There are two major concerns:
• Although some studies show the benefits of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets in the short term, avoiding Fruit and Grain Products means a diet that is missing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.
• Eating small amounts of red meat, especially processed red meat, on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

When trying to include more high quality sources of protein, choose lower fat Milk and Alternatives and leaner Meat and Alternatives products.

In the next couple weeks, I am going to tackle the major nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If you have certain questions about any of these topics, please send them my way and I’ll include them in my blogs.

If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!