Protein is a very important and essential part of the human diet. So much so that the type and quality of protien you consume can very much effect your health. Most of your body is composed of it from your muscles and bones to many of your cell types, enzymes and even your DNA!
So many folks continue to be rather confused regarding what foods contain protein, the various types of proteins, how much protien to consume and the various effects these vital macro-nutrients can have upon your body.
Basically, all proteins are made in a similar fashion, they are either plant-based or animal-based. Since humans cannot synthesize their own proteins, we must consume them from outside sources. That leaves us with many choices and as all proteins contain amino acids (9 are essential), we have to look at the various types of proteins and figure out what is best for us to choose.
In the plant kingdom, legumes and grains contain the best sources of protein. Of these, soy and whole grains (brown rice, buckweat) contain high amounts of protein and other valuable nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fat and fiber. Combining legumes, nuts and whole grains in a meal is really an excellent way of getting your much needed protein. The cool thing about eating this type of protein is that it has almost zero saturated fat but contains omega 6/3 polyunsaturated fat and the omega-9 monosaturated fat which is very good for you. The only down side is the quality of the protein, as some grains, seeds, nuts and peas are lower in certain amino acids, except soy. If you combine these foods or consume soy products….no issue here!
What about animal sources of protein?
Well…for the most part, you are going to do well if you are careful with your selection! Animal meat is good quality protein but has much higher levels of saturated fat including arachadonic acid with increases LDL cholesterol and inflammation inside your body. Dairy products are also a good choice, but I recommend consuming those that are lower in fat of course. Yogurt, cottage cheese and roccota are excellent choices as are goat cheese and lower fat versions of cream and milk products. If you want the best quality of anmial protein, I would go with organic, free-range varieties which have high protein quality and a much better fat profile.
Of course, eggs get a bad rap from most folks, but they are one of the best sources of protein and nutrients you can buy for the money. Consumed in moderation, eggs are an excellent choice for anyone to make in an otherwise healthy diet.
The best choices for a protein source in my opinion is fish and poultry, the hands down winner….seafood is also fine but fish rules this category. Not only is the protein of very high value but the fat profile in fish contains a fat profile that is life-saving. For more info, read my articles on this fact including the information on the Mediterranean diet.
For those of you who are at risk for heart disease, here is some new research findings regarding protein substitution which may be of interest to you.
This study pooled the results from 36 randomized controlled trials involving 1,803 participants. The participants who consumed diets with compared those who ate protein of other types of foods (i.e. chicken, fish, carbohydrates, or plant proteins such as legumes, soy, or nuts). The researchers compared the blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and blood pressure between the two groups. These measures are known risk factors for cardiovscular disease.
“This study found that when diets containing red meat were compared with all other types of diets, there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or blood pressure, although diets higher in red meat did lead to higher triglyceride concentrations than the comparison diets. However, researchers found that diets higher in high-quality plant protein sources such as legumes, soy, and nuts resulted in lower levels of both total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to diets with red meat.”
No surprises there!
The results of this study do correlate with other long-term observational studies which indicate a lower risk of heart attack in people when nuts and other plant sources of protein are compared to red meat. This relationship is really attributed to the effects that the differnt types of fat contained within various types of protein has upon risk factors and not the protein itself.
In my opinion, adults in general do not eat enough good quality protein and this needs to be changed. Your bones, muscles and immune system with thank you if you get this right! You don’t need copious amounts either. I like the 1.2-2 gram of protein per Kg. of body weight calculation for adults. Although some folks think this is too high…it’s not when you consider the rationale behind it.
Until Next Time
The Vitality Project
Dr. Kevin J. Mclaughlin