5 myths about protein – facts about protein
Your body needs protein, that’s a fact. The macronutrient works many critical roles in the body, including helping to keep your cells, tissues and organs functioning. So yes, you have to eat foods that contain it, because if the body synthesizes a lot of it amino acids that make up protein chains, there are some that the body cannot produce,
After that, there is a lot of back and forth about what your body needs, in what form (animal, vegetable, or vanilla flavored white powder poured into a giant plastic container for sale at your old fashion store. supplements) and whether the macronutrient itself can help you lose more weight or build more muscle. âThe National Academy of Medicine also defines a wide range of acceptable protein intakes, ranging from 10% to 35% of calories per day,â said the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. Nutritional source said. “Beyond that, there is relatively little solid information about the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest target for the calories provided by protein.”
This leaves a lot of room for misconceptions to flourish. To help clear up some of the confusion, we went to the experts.
Myth #1: There is not too much protein.
The truth: There are several reasons not to overdo it. While a high protein diet may seem like a no-brainer, protein digestion increases blood levels uric acid waste, which your kidneys help flush out of your body. Eat far more than you need (about 46g per day for a 130-pound woman) and you can overload the kidneys, leading to damage and conditions like gout, says Steven Gundry, MD, director of the International Heart & Lung Institute for Restorative Medicine.
For most people, however, the problem is that keto and Atkins diets consist of a lot of meat and eggs, which tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, says. Ruby Lathon, Ph.D., nutritionist in Washington, DC, and those may increase the risk of heart disease and Cancer. Plants are the best way to get protein â a 2020 study in BMJ found that replacing certain red meats with protein from high-quality plant sources like beans, nuts and soybeans could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. As for protein as a quick fix for weight loss, whether the excess calories come from beef or brownies, it âturns into sugar, which is stored as fat,â says Dr. Gundry.
Myth #2: You cannot get enough complete protein just from plants.
The truth: You can. Experts believed that you need to combine certain plant proteins to get a complete protein, that is, a protein containing the nine essential amino acids that your body cannot make on its own. Now, we know that you don’t need to combine plant proteins perfectly in one meal as long as you eat from a variety of food groups throughout the day. In fact, a 2019 review found that vegetarians who ate enough protein-rich foods got more than enough protein and amino acids. Beans, nuts and seeds can meet your daily needs as well as animal products (a cup of black beans cooked at 16 g, about 35% of your daily needs; a cup of edamame at 18 g, compared to 29 g in a 4 oz beef burger). Vegetables have less protein, but do contain it, especially broccoli, bean sprouts, green peas and spinach.
Myth #3: Eating cheese is a great way to get protein.
The truth: If only. Listen, brie babes: while cheese is high in protein (just 1.5 ounces of cheddar contains 10 g), it is high in sodium, calories and saturated fats that raise cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommended limit saturated fat to about 13g per day (on a 2,000 calorie per day diet) and sodium to 2,300 mg per day, so have only 1.5 oz of Cheddar cheese (an amount about the size of three dice) would give you more than half of your saturated fat and use more than 10% of your sodium budget for the day. Your best bet is to choose low-fat options (think feta, mozzarella, and cottage cheese), says Ginger Hultin, registered dietitian nutritionist at Champagne Nutrition, or keep the richest portions in small quantities. Either way, cheese shouldn’t be your main source of protein.
Myth #4: Animal protein causes cancer.
The truth: It’s not that simple, and the good news for meat eaters is that not all meats are created equal. When doctors talk about the link between meat and cancer, they are mainly referring to red meat and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham, and cured meat. The World Health Organization considers processed meat to be a Group 1 carcinogen, which means that there is some evidence showing that it can cause colon cancer in humans. Red meats like beef, pork, veal and lamb are labeled as Group 2 carcinogens, with some evidence suggesting they may increase cancer risk. If you eat animal protein, Dr. Gundry recommends focusing on wild fish and shellfish, chicken and duck, and eggs, foods that do not contain the Neu5Gc sugar molecule, which was linked with cancer, rather than beef, pork, and lamb. A diet high in fruits, vegetables and fish, on the other hand, can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by 43%, a JAMA Internal Medicine to study find.
Myth #5: Protein powders and bars are a great way to increase your protein intake.
The truth: Not really. Many protein bars and powders are highly processed, with added sugars or other sweeteners, colors and preservatives, Hultin says. And the more processed they are, the more they can slow you down, as processed foods can clog the mitochondria, the tiny organelles that turn food into energy for the body’s cells, says Dr. Gundry. Plus, getting protein from whole food sources is optimal in order to get other nutrients as well, like calcium and fiber, Lathon says.
Still, the occasional bar or powder can be handy, Hultin says. Look for bars with at least 3g of fiber and short, simple ingredient lists that include items like fruits and nuts as well as natural sweeteners like monk fruit and dates. Regardless of the name of the sugar on the list (even if it’s honey or maple syrup), âmake sure the sugar isn’t the first ingredient,â Lathon says. “If so, you’re pretty much eating a candy bar.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Prevention.
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