With all the buzz about protein, you might think Americans were at risk for not eating enough. But in reality, most of us eat more protein than we need. The latest statistics estimate that Americans consume about twice the amount of protein than what they actually need. And when it comes to protein, more isn’t necessarily better.
Protein is essential in the diet. It is critical in many body functions, one function being building muscle mass. But, that doesn’t mean that eating large amounts of lean protein will not equate with a toned body, although that is what many diet and supplement companies want you to believe.
How Much Protein Do We Actually Need?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that protein-rich foods represent 10 to 35 percent of the calories you take in. The average woman should get about 46 grams of protein a day and men should get about 56 grams of protein daily.
Dangers of Protein Over Consumption
There are dangers in over consumption of protein. Some may still be contemplating the promises of quick weight loss fixes and although the Atkin’s craze has subsided to some respect, there are still many companies offering quick fix supposed ‘healthier’ versions of a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. And this includes the diet craze of protein shakes in place of meals for quick weight loss. Yet, health experts are still warning against these types of diets for many reasons including that excess dietary protein is exceptionally hard on the kidneys, and most importantly this push for more protein often comes with a consumption of high fat meats, which we know is bad for the heart and can increase the risk of diabetes.
It's important to eat a variety of foods from the protein food groups each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, eggs and poultry. These foods keep you healthy by supplying protein, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium all while getting healthy protein that doesn’t provide excess bad fat, which is really the key to finding balance. Getting a wide variety of these low-calorie, low-fat protein-rich foods is needed to supply the variety of these nutrients:
Quinoa is a plant based complete protein. It also provides healthy fats and can decrease inflammation, which is good for the heart. Considered in combination, these diverse nutrient benefits of quinoa give it uniqueness among grain-related foods.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are also a meat-free protein source. A one ounce serving of most nuts and seeds provide about 6 to 9 grams of protein. And while they do contain fat, it is the healthy monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart and overall body.
Lean Animal Protein
Lean animal protein sources include the white meat from chicken and turkey and dark meat without the skin, fish, cuts of beef that include sirloin, flank steak, rump roast, top loin, top round and extra lean ground beef. Pork center loin and tenderloin are also lean choices. The protein in these lean meats help with muscle growth and development, and it helps support a healthy body weight and aid in weight loss.
Beans are well-known for being high in fiber, but they are also high in protein. Beans are a wonderful source of protein, ranging from 10 to 18 grams per cup cooked, depending on the type. They're also versatile and economical.
Low-fat dairy products also qualify as sources of lean protein. Additionally, it provides a necessary and healthy amount of calcium, which helps support a healthy body weight and can aid in weight loss.
By paying attention to portion size and fat content of your protein sources, you can enjoy a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet for a lifetime of good health.
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