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Protein – Your Questions Answered

Most of us are aware that protein is an important part of a healthy diet. But understanding what protein is needed for, and determining if you are getting enough, are often the harder questions. We tried to answer many of your questions below, as well as provide you with a list of some of the best sources of protein.

High-Protein-FoodsWhy do you need protein?

Protein is the building block of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Protein’s main function is to build and repair the body’s tissues, including muscles. However, protein also plays a key role in circulatory health, enzyme and hormone synthesis and the development of a robust immune system.

Since protein is constantly broken down, it is crucial to consume this macronutrient every day, especially after a strenuous workout.

Protein sources can be classified as complete or incomplete. Complete protein sources contain all the nine essential amino acids that your body needs and cannot produce on its own. All animal sources of protein, as well as eggs, dairy, soy and quinoa, are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the nine essential amino acids and include beans, rice and nuts. By combining different protein sources, you can ensure that you get all essential amino acids into your diet.

How much do you need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the average woman. That translates into about 53 grams of protein for an 140-pound woman. However, if you are more active, even a recreational athlete, than you should consume between 64 to 127 grams of protein daily.

What if you don’t get enough?

When there is a lack of protein, the body will start to use its own muscle for fuel.

Can protein help you lose weight?

Yes, higher protein foods require more work as your body breaks them down for fuel, so you naturally burn more calories to digest them. Additionally, high protein foods help you feel fuller, longer. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher protein intake (30 – 40% of the diet) helps to boost levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel satiated) and reduces the levels of the hunger producing hormone, ghrelin.

Can you have too much protein?

Yes. Your body can only absorb about 30 grams of protein (4-5 ounces) at a time. If you take in more than that, and your daily calorie intake is sufficient to meet your energy needs, then it can be stored as fat. There is also some controversy as to whether excess protein over an extended period of time can place a strain on the kidneys.

Where to get your protein?372ec064272dcd9e71fb918360aeee15

  • Lean Grass-fed Beef: 4-5 ounce has 25 grams of protein.
  • Grilled Chicken Breast: 4 ounces has 36 grams of protein.
  • Fish: Most 3 ounce servings contain at least 20 grams of protein.
  • Eggs: One whole egg contains 7 grams of protein.
  • Greek Yogurt: One 8-ounce container has 20 grams of protein.
  • Cottage Cheese: One cup has 28 grams of protein.
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup has 20 grams of protein.
  • Black Beans: ½ cup has 7 grams of protein.
  • Lentils: 1 cup has approximately 18 grams of protein.
  • Edamame: ½ cup has 8 grams of protein.
  • Quinoa: 1 cup has about 8 grams of protein.
  • Walnuts: ½ cup has about 9 grams of protein.
  • Tofu: 3 ounces has almost 8 grams of protein.
  • Peanut Butter: 2 tablespoons has 8 grams of protein
  • Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese: 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein.
  • Broccoli:  1 cup has 6 grams of protein.
  • Protein Powders: When you are in a rush and can’t get what you need from food alone, these powders are an easy way to ensure that you are getting enough protein. Some options include whey, soy, brown rice, pea and casein powders. (Look for a blog post soon to explain these different options.)

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Did You Know?

Below are facts on some common things we eat every day that you might not have known. Let’s classify them into the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Skim Latte– Packed with protein, and half your calcium need for the day; it’s a “liquid meal in a cup”. Caffeine or what I usually like to choose…half caf…helps give you sbaboost of energy and fires up your metabolism. If you do want to add a little flavor – ask for one pump (vs. the typical 4 pumps). You will save 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Be wary of the “skinny” latte– which is made with artificial sweeteners.

Organic Whole Grain Cereals – A cereal such as Uncle Sam’s has only 4 organic ingredients: Whole Wheat Kernels, Whole Flaxseed, Salt and Barley Malt. Weighing in at 190 calories, 5 grams of good fat, 38 carbohydrates (of which, 10 grams are fiber!), less than 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of protein. What a perfect meal!

Non-Fat Greek Yogurt – One cup of Fage Total 0% Fat Greek yogurt is only 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar (vs. most flavored yogurts with over 22 grams of sugar), 18 grams of protein!, and 20% of your daily calcium requirements.

Pure Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is chock-full of protein, with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Benefits of one serving of peanut butter:

  • 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E
  • 49 mg of bone-building magnesium
  • 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium
  •  0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6
  • Can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions

Choose one with no additives…peanuts only and maybe a little sea salt. Best to eliminate anything that ends in “y”…Skippy, Jiffy, Teddie, Freddy…and be cautious of the term “natural” on a label – it’s a marketing term and doesn’t mean anything. Organic is ideal. If you are allergic, try soy nut butter. Same great protein benefits.

Eggs – Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.  A large egg contains:

  • only 77 calories
  • only 5 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of protein
  • all 9 essential amino acids
  • rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others)
  • 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things. A study revealed that 90% of Americans may not get enough choline in their diet.

The yolks contain most of the nutrients! Omega-3 enriched or pastured (raised on a pasture and grass fed) eggs are much more nutritious than factory-raised chickens. 

Whey Protein – Whey protein is considered a complete protein, contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Additional benefits include:

  • weight loss
  • increased muscle mass (vs. fat)
  • increase in glutathione levels (your body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
  • decrease in triglycerides and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
  • increase in immune system function and power in sports and decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training

Quinoa – also known as the “SuperGrain”. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and it contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It contains:

  • iron
  • lysine (mainly essential for tissue growth and repair)
  • is rich in magnesium
  • high in Riboflavin (B2) (improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells)
  • has a high content of manganese (an antioxidant)

The Bad

Smoothies – depending on the ingredients, can have up to 1,500 calories, 60 grams of fat and 60 grams of sugar. Best to lean toward the natural ingredients – fresh fruit, milk, water, whey protein. 

Granola – has long been viewed since back-in-the-day as a “health food”. There are wonderful properties to granola and trail mix, however, they are often made with butter and oil and have up to 400 calories per cup. Shop for the lighter variations, or make it yourself.

Salad Dressing – Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing has 150 calories per 2 tbsps. , of which, 144 calories are from fat, and 420 mg of sodium (Ranch is 140 calories, 135 from fat). Even if you choose the “light version”, you start to sacrifice nutrition for artificial ingredients. Try a balsamic glaze with natural spices (garlic, salt, pepper, mint).

Fat-Free Foods – you are better off just eating the real thing, or reduced fat…most fat free foods have a ton of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup – added empty calories which cause you to eat more. Healthy fats are essential to our diet – it’s just important to eat them in moderation.

100 Calorie Packs – convenient packs do not change the nutritional content. Your snack may still be too high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates or sodium, even if you’re eating only 100 calories. And they generally leave you unsatistifed and craving more.

Bagels – most bagels are a dense, bleached, processed flour carbohydrate that usually contain about 500 calories, equivalent to 5 slices of bread. All of those carbs will give you a quick boost than a hard crash. They are typically made with white flour, are very difficult for your body to ingest and have several inflammatory properties. If you choose to eat a bagel, opt for whole wheat or oat bran.

Gatorade –

  • A single serving of Gatorade contains 14 grams of sugar – a mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups and glucose-fructose (most 20oz bottles are 2.5 servings or 34 grams of sugar)
  • Contains a ton of sodium – an unlikely candidate for any beneficial electrolyte restoration (when the body experiences short periods of exhaustion and fatigue, it does not need mass amounts of sodium)
  • It uses brominated vegetable oil (BVO) to increase fluidity and uniformity (like other sugary drinks). BVO is also used to create lead dissolving additives for gasoline, photographic paper films, fire-extinguishing materials, and agricultural fumigants. More than 100 countries have outlawed the substance altogether.
  • Because of the amount of carbohydrates in Gatorade, over consumption can cause obesity.
  • Ingredients include:  water, sugar, table salt, carbohydrates, electrolytes (110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, 93 mg chloride), high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, glucose and fructose.

Sugar Cereal- It is common for nutrition-minded shoppers to pick “healthy choices” such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Cascade Granola. Honey Nut Cheerios actually has the equivalent amount of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. And most other cereals have significantly more. In fact, many of these cereals surpass the half-way mark for how much sugar many experts believe we should consume in a day.

The Ugly

Donuts – Sorry to say, a donut is not food. Nutritional info for a Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut: 370 calories, 24 g of fat (11 grams of saturated fat), 390 grams of sodium, 35 carbs, 17 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. And this is a common breakfast. Ingredients include:

Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene)

Frappuccino – A Grande Java Chip Frappuccino have 460 calories, 18g of fat (12 grams of saturated fat), 50 mg of cholesterol (17% of daily value!), 72 grams of carbohydrates, 66 grams of sugar! (no, that is not a typo) and 6 grams of protein. Ingredients in a frappaccino (not including the chips) include:

  • Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150)

With the light Frappuccino, it may be fewer calories however; you are ingesting even more chemicals:

  • Light Coffee Frappuccino: Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)

Processed Deli Meats  – most are prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and bonded together with non-meat additives and meat emulsions cooked to coagulate and bind the chunks of meat into a “shaped form” of meat. Often include nitrates, up to 460 mg sodium per serving, carrageenan, meat by-products (read – bones), corn syrup, gelatin and emulsifiers. Your best bet is the real thing – roasted turkey. Make it and slice it for the week. Or visit Batavia. Best turkey sandwich in town.

Soda / Sugar Drinks – 1 can of Classic Coke contains 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar and includes high fructose corn sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, “natural flavors” and caffeine. Snapple is not any better, against popular belief: 1 bottle = 150 calories, 36 grams of sugar.

Chicken Nuggets – There are truly no “healthy” chicken nuggets unless made from scratch – if any, possibly Bell & Evans with simple ingredients of white breast chicken & whole wheat breading. Typical ingredient list for chicken nuggets includes:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Potassium Lactate, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Flavorings, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Diacetate, Carrageenan. Dextrose, Calcium Propionate (to Protect Freshness), Guar Gum, Potassium Sorbate (to Protect Freshness)

English Muffins – Perfect example of a processed food. Ingredients in Thomas’ include:

mono and diglycerides, datem, sodium stearolyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono-and diglycerides, dextrose, wheat sour, guar gum, lactic acid, molasses, fumaric acid, azodicarbonamide, , caramel color, acetic acid, sucralose, nonfat milk

Try a brand that is organic or whole wheat with 5 or less ingredients.

Fruit Snacks/Gummies: a recent fruit snack was given to my son in a party bag…it is produced by “Healthy Food Brands” and the ingredient list is as follows:

grape juice concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, apple puree, gelatin, citric acid, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, FD&C Red, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 3, carnauba wax.

One guess if I let him eat it?

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