How to Get Quality Protein
The Help Guide Organization recently published an article about acquiring Protein. It is essential for our body to get the quality protein it needs to boost energy and improve health. Learn about what protein really is, its type and benefits as well as how it can be incorporated to a balanced diet.
This article was published on their website:
Protein is in many of the foods that we eat every day, but for something so common, it’s often a misunderstood part of our diets. Think of protein and you might think of a huge piece of steak sizzling on a grill, the latest energy bar touting to banish fatigue, or a protein shake promising to fuel amazing muscle growth. Yes, these foods are all packed with protein, but when it comes to making the best protein choices to keep your body and mind healthy, quality is just as important as quantity.
What is protein?
Protein is a vital nutrient required for building, maintaining, and repairing tissues, cells, and organs throughout the body. Every cell in your body contains protein and it is a major part of the skin, hair, and nails. Protein forms body chemicals, such as enzymes, that are responsible for the many metabolic processes that sustain life. When you eat protein in food, it is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy. The amino acid tryptophan influences mood by producing serotonin, which can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve overall cognitive function.
Most animal sources of protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, deliver all the amino acids your body needs, while plant-based protein sources such as grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts often lack one or more of the essential amino acids. However, that doesn’t mean you have to eat animal products to get the right amino acids. By eating a variety of plant-based sources of protein each day you can ensure your body gets all the protein and essential amino acids it needs.
The health benefits of protein
Protein gives you the energy to get up and go—and keep going. While too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, diabetes, and some other chronic conditions, eating the right amount of high-quality protein keeps your immune system functioning properly, maintains heart health and your respiratory system, and speeds recovery after exercise.
- Protein is vital to the growth and development of children and for maintaining health in your senior years.
- Eating high-quality protein can help reduce your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- A diet rich in high-quality proteins can help you think clearly and may improve recall.
- Protein is an essential element of a healthy, balanced diet that can improve your mood and boost your resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression.
As well as being imperative to feeling healthy and energetic, protein is also important to the way you look.
- Eating high-quality protein can help maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair.
- It can help you build muscle.
- If you’re looking to lose weight, eating high-quality protein can help you maintain lean body mass while dieting.
While most people eating a Western diet get sufficient quantity of protein each day, many of us are not getting the quality of protein we need.
Not all protein is the same
When choosing protein-rich foods, it’s important to look at more than just the protein content. Red meat and whole milk dairy products, while rich in protein, tend to also contain saturated fat, the health consequences of which are debated in the nutrition world. While many health organizations maintain that eating saturated fat from any source can compromise your health, the latest studies suggest that the effect of saturated fats on blood cholesterol varies from person to person, depending on genetics and other health factors. People who eat lots of saturated fat do not experience more cardiovascular disease than those who eat less. In fact, consuming whole-fat dairy may even have beneficial effects for some people, including helping to control weight.
For some experts, it’s the quality of the red meat that is most important. In countries like the U.S., for example, industrially-raised animals are typically denied access to the outdoors, pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and given GMO feed grown with pesticides. When these additives enter the food chain they are mainly stored in the fat of an animal—which can be a good reason for cutting down on fatty red meat.
However, proponents of the saturated fat movement believe that eating organic, grass-fed red meat from animals raised in a more natural environment doesn’t carry the same health risks, and that this type of red meat can still be considered high-quality protein.
High-quality vs. low-quality protein
Distinguishing between industrially raised meat and organic, grass-fed meat is only part of separating low- and high-quality sources of protein. While some processed or lunch meats, for example, can be a good source of protein, many are loaded with hidden salt, which can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Processed meats have also been linked with an increased risk of cancer, likely due to the substances used in the processing of the meat.
The key to ensuring you eat sufficient high-quality protein is to include different types in your diet, rather than relying on just red meat or processed meat. Try these sources of high-quality protein as well:
Fish. Most seafood is high in protein and low in saturated fat. Fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, sablefish (black cod), and herring are also high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Experts recommend eating seafood at least twice a week as part of a balanced diet.
Poultry. Removing the skin from fresh chicken and turkey can substantially reduce the amount of saturated fat if that concerns you. In the U.S., though, non-organic poultry may also contain antibiotics and been raised on GMO feed grown with pesticides, so opt for organic and free-range if possible.
Dairy products. Whether you choose whole- or skim milk dairy, products such as cheese, milk, and yoghurt offer lots of healthy protein. Beware of added sugar in low-fat yoghurts and flavored milk, though, and skip processed cheese that often contains non-dairy ingredients.
Beans. Beans and peas are packed full of both protein and fiber. Add them to salads, soups and stews to boost your protein intake.
Nuts and seeds. As well as being rich sources of protein, nuts and seeds are also high in fiber. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, flaxseed, sesame and sunflower seeds are also full of “good” fats that can help lower cholesterol. Add to salads or keep handy for snacks.
Tofu and soy products. Tofu and soy are excellent red meat alternatives, high in protein and low in fat. However, in countries like the U.S., a lot of it has been genetically modified, so look for organic or non-GMO soy products. Try a “meatless Monday” each week—plant-based protein sources are often less expensive than meat so it can be as good for your wallet as it is for your health.
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