Lean, Mean, Protein… Confusing?

So we’ve all heard about these crazy high protein diets.  The Atkins diet seems like a good idea, but is it really?  Let’s go over protein, our last macro-nutrient.  Protein is a great nutrient, but, as with anything, everything in moderation.  Your body uses up it’s own proteins every day and these proteins need to be replenished through our diet.  Here in America it is rare that people are protein deficient, but we don’t always use proteins wisely and we also don’t always pick the right proteins.  The idea of cutting out an apple (which contains lots of fiber) because it has carbohydrates and eat as much bacon as you want (when it has lots of saturated fats) because it is protein is illogical.

Life is about balance and so is nutrition.

Most people aren’t in need of proteins supplements because we don’t do enough to warrant supplements.  Too much protein, especially animal proteins, can put a lot of pressure on your kidneys and liver.  So lets talk about healthy proteins and not so healthy proteins.

Lean proteins like plant proteins from beans, nuts, legumes, and soy, as well as protein from fish and poultry are amazing for you.  They contain essential amino acids without the saturated fats that we talked about in the previous blog.  They have, in some studies, been shown to protect your organs.  Soy protein is a little bit of a controversy.  Soy protein isn’t bad, there have been no studies that I have found where soy has caused feminization in men and there haven’t really been any studies to backup soy protein causing cancer, but it is recommended that people limit their servings of soy from 1 to 2 servings a day.  If you are a survivor or at risk for breast cancer it is best to talk to your physician about using soy in your diet.  Studies are mixed and it is better if you and your healthcare provider have a discussion about your lifestyle and individual risk.

Proteins that come from red meat should be eaten more in moderation.  Beef, pork, and lamb are delicious and no one likes anemia, but when you eat these proteins try to stick to leaner cuts (these cuts tend to be less expensive anyway).  The amount of fats in these meats tend to be what makes these proteins less healthy.  See the “Does this fat make me look fat” blog for additional info.

Proteins to try to avoid are processed meats.  I know you probably don’t get a craving for spam all that often, but take a peak at that turkey sandwich you brought to work.  That deli meat is processed.  Put the turkey sandwich down and try having a salad with a chicken breast.

Proteins are amazing for filling you up and keeping you full longer.  They are great food for an active body, but one can not live on protein alone.  Eat your fiber.  I know it’s carbohydrates, but fiber is a toothbrush for your intestines.  Eat your fats because they will provide you with vital energy and help your body regulate it’s own cholesterol.  And eat your proteins because they will keep you full longer and provide vital energy.  Eating these 3 macro-nutrients correctly will help you with your weight loss, regulate your hunger, help your brain work, and help you regulate your own hormones.  Also, and never forget this, these nutrients will add variety to your diet.  Variety is the spice of life.  Balance is, therefore, delicious.

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