There are huge discussions in the fitness and medical spheres on how much fat and carbohydrates we should consume. But there aren’t many contra opinions on the protein value we should intake.
Proteins are universally acknowledged as vital to us because they are body-building foods. They help build our muscles, tendons, organs, and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and various molecules that serve many important functions.
There are certain times in our lives when proteins become more important to us. For example, when we want to lose weight, when we want to improve our muscle tone, when women are pregnant, or when athletes want to do exercise regimes to get super fit.
There are many facets to proteins that we should know about. So, let’s separate the facts and myths, and aim to get the most out of our protein consumption.
According to Medline Plus, proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. 20 different amino acids (smaller units) combine to make a protein.
According to Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD, writing in Healthline, there are 9 essential functions that proteins perform in our bodies:
The Dietary Reference Intake of US Health.gov recommends 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight. This amounts to 54 grams per day for a 150-pound sedentary person or 65 grams per day for a 180-pound sedentary person.
(These are just protein-sufficiency numbers. You may need more depending on your activities, age, gender, or state of health.)
The value of proteins becomes more crucial to us at certain times:
For any weight loss, we need to consume fewer calories than we burn to lose weight. According to Klaas R Westerterp, in his medical paper in Nutrition and Metabolism, evidence suggests that eating protein can increase the number of calories we burn by boosting our metabolic rate and reducing our appetite.
Protein is far better than fat or carbs at keeping us feeling full.
Muscles are primarily made up of protein. People who do large amounts of daily physical work, or engage in strenuous exercise regimes (such as athletes), need to build their muscle mass for two reasons. Muscles give tone and shape to the body. And more importantly, muscles help burn more fat every time we use them in activity.
According to Christopher Wharton, Ph.D., quoted in WebMD, “10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories.”
Getting enough protein throughout pregnancy is important for women, but it’s especially critical during the second and third trimesters. That’s when the baby grows the fastest, and the mother’s body also grows substantially to accommodate the baby.
According to Cassandra M. Herring et al., in their medical paper in Experimental Biology and Medicine, “Low maternal dietary protein intake can cause embryonic losses, intra-uterine growth restriction, and reduced postnatal growth due to a deficiency in specific amino acids that are important for cell metabolism and function.”
Proteins can help with chronic health conditions such as obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension. When these ailments combine with other hereditary factors, they can all have a multiplicative effect on the heart.
Eating quality protein can help with high diabetes symptoms, increase HDL cholesterol, control obesity, and lower blood pressure.
Interestingly, according to Deena Theresa, writing in Interesting Engineering, researchers at the University of Sydney have developed a method – a protein injection of “tropoelastin” – to reverse the loss of elasticity of damaged heart tissue following heart attacks.
There are so many ways we can include proteins in our diets that it takes some judgment – and, of course, the advice of our doctors and dieticians.
According to Emilie Vandenberg, RD, LD, writing in the Ohio State Health & Discovery, leaner protein is best, and people must cut back on red meat or processed meat.
Some good examples are white meat poultry, fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna), pork tenderloin, lean cuts of beef, eggs and egg whites, and non-fat or low-fat cottage cheese.
Milk is probably the only source of “animal-based protein” that most vegetarians (except strict vegans) would allow themselves to have. You’ll find two types of protein in milk: whey (20 percent) and casein (80 percent). Both are considered high-quality proteins.
According to Zawn Villines, writing in Medical News Today, getting enough high-quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals can be challenging for people who do not eat meat or animal products.
Some of the best plant proteins include soya products like tofu, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, spirulina, quinoa, mushrooms, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and dark-colored leafy greens and vegetables like broccoli or kale.
According to a Hindustan Times article, almost all our dhals or lentils have a reasonably good proportion of protein, but the top five would be urad dhal, channa dhal, tur dhal, moong dhal, and masoor dhal. Other good dhals include kabuli channa, lobia dhal, and rajmah.
But the main reason for the reduction in the protein value we get from dhals is that we add a lot of water to the dhal dishes. The intake of protein then goes down.
What is the verdict on the protein powders vs natural proteins tussle? Those who vouch for protein powders and bars like the fact that they are made of concentrated dense protein, and very convenient. The other group says artificial proteins may have additives and preservatives that natural protein sources will not have … and besides, Nature never creates pure proteins without any other complementary nutrients.
According to Lauren Fischer, writing in Wellness 360, the jury is still out on the protein powders vs natural protein debate, with a to-and-fro of arguments from both sides.
Protein-rich foods are vital to our body-building and body-repair processes. Proteins become more important if we have other heart-affecting diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or cholesterol. Choose high-quality proteins, whether you prefer animal or plant sources. Stay heart-healthy. Be a Zinda Dil.