How Much Protein Do You Need to Be Healthy?

Jesse Hirsch wrote . . . . . . . . .

Smoothies, shakes, supplements: There’s no shortage of products that come with promises to boost your protein intake. But do you really need that extra protein?

“I think a lot of people feel pressured by all the marketing out there, making them feel like their diet is protein-deficient,” says Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Before you start eating extra steak or mixing protein powder into your smoothies, it’s important to assess what your protein requirements actually are and the best ways to get the right amount.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

Protein is the building block for most of our cells; dietary protein helps us build muscle and maintain healthy bones. It also boosts energy and helps us feel full.

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes from the USDA, most people need about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So someone who weighs 150 pounds would need about 60 grams of protein each day. (For a more individualized estimate of how much protein you need, you can enter your height, weight, and age into the USDA’s calculator.)

Considering that one 6-ounce skinless, cooked chicken breast contains 54 grams of protein, achieving the recommended daily intake isn’t a high hurdle for most. Despite the crowded market for protein supplements and all the manufacturers touting the high protein content in their products, “most of us are already getting an adequate amount in our diet,” says Paddon-Jones.

Certain people, such as very strict vegans and those who lack access to healthy food in general, may have a harder time hitting those modest goals. (See “What Are the Best Protein Sources?” below for ideas on how to get more.)

Who Needs Extra Protein?

If you’re trying to build muscle mass or you’re a serious athlete, your daily protein needs can be up to double the average. Paddon-Jones cautions that this doesn’t really apply to someone who hits the gym a few times each week. “We’re talking about a small group of people who are working their bodies hard, every day,” he says.

Dieters also sometimes increase their protein intake in order to achieve a feeling of fullness without adding the empty calories of, say, refined carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose weight, research suggests that aiming for 0.7 grams of daily protein for every pound you weigh might help.

After age 60, getting at least 0.6 grams per pound daily can help prevent age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia, which increases the risk of disability.

If you have certain medical concerns—you’re recovering from broken bones or a severe burn, for example—your doctor may advise you to up your protein intake. The nutrient could help with regrowth and cell generation, and might speed the healing process.

What Are the Best Protein Sources?

Animal proteins are often touted as “complete proteins” because they contain all eight amino acids—which assist in healthy metabolism and body function—that your body doesn’t produce on its own. Plant-based protein sources lack some of these acids, but you can mix and match (e.g., combining brown rice and beans, or putting peanut butter on whole-grain bread) to make a complete protein.

Paddon-Jones says you shouldn’t spend too much time fretting that your protein sources are incomplete; it’s more important to eat a generally balanced diet. “If you’re getting your protein from spinach and beans, you’re getting all sorts of great nutrients that more than compensate for any lacking amino acids,” he says.

In general, shoot for a diet that includes a variety of protein sources, such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, yogurt, tofu, quinoa, nuts, and beans. These types of whole foods aren’t just good sources of protein; they’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients.

Federal dietary guidelines show that Americans—particularly men and teenage boys—get most of their protein from meat, poultry, and eggs. “It’s always smart to aim for a variety of nutrient sources in your diet,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food-testing lab.

In general, avoid using protein supplements and shakes. Though protein-packed meal-replacement shakes can seem convenient, they’re often packed with unwanted sugars and other additives, and they generally lack the key nutrients you get from whole foods. And independent testing has shown that some protein products contain high amounts of arsenic, cadmium, and other dangerous heavy metals.

Can You Overdo It?

Research has shown that the body has a limited capacity to process large amounts of protein all at once. One study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that someone who ingests 90 grams of protein in a meal gets roughly the same benefits as someone who ingests 30 grams.

It’s better to space out your protein intake over the course of the day in order for your body to use it all effectively. Start with, say, yogurt or eggs in the morning, get some tuna for lunch, then move onto a lean meat at dinner. You can supplement throughout the day with smart protein snacks like hummus and veggies or peanut butter on crackers or sliced apples.

For most healthy adults, there isn’t a significant danger to getting more than the recommended amount of protein naturally in your diet.

“Unless you’re [genetically predisposed to] kidney issues such as advanced type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, there are few established health risks of ingesting too much protein,” says Jamie Baum, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Arkansas.

Some research has shown potentially adverse effects of excess protein intake, such as straining the kidneys and the liver. But that’s generally only among people who are upping their intake with supplements. And if your protein is coming predominantly from animal sources, you could face corollary risks associated with high-meat diets, such as higher rates of coronary heart disease.

“As with so much else in diet and nutrition, the key to healthy protein intake is balance and moderation,” says Siegel.

Source: Consumer Reports

Green Waffles with Chickpea Flour and Spinach

Ingredients

2 Tbsp + 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
5 large organic eggs
4 cups spinach, tough ends trimmed, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp cider vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
1-1/4 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 lb smoked trout or salmon (optional)

Method

  1. In skillet over medium, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add shallots and salt. Heat until shallots have turned golden, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add wine, tomatoes, thyme, and 1/4 tsp black pepper to pan and simmer for 3 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by about half. Cover to keep warm.
  3. In blender container, place milk, 1 egg, 1 Tbsp oil, 2 cups spinach, Parmesan, cider vinegar, lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp black pepper, and blend until smooth.
  4. Blend in chickpea flour and baking powder. Let batter rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease a waffle iron and heat according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. Ladle in about 1/3 cup batter for each waffle and cook until batter has set, about 4 minutes. Keep waffles warm in 200ºF oven while you prepare remaining batter.
  7. To prepare eggs, in small skillet over medium-low, heat 1 tsp oil. Carefully crack an egg into skillet. For sunny-side up, cook until white is set and outer edges start to curl up. If you prefer over-easy, flip egg and cook an additional 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs.
  8. To serve, place waffles on serving plates and top with remaining spinach, tomato mixture, smoked fish (if using), and egg. Season with freshly cracked pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Alive magazine

Video: Multi-course Breakfast Served by a Michelin-starred Restaurant in Japan

Asadaya Ryokan (浅田屋旅館) in Kanazawa, Japan

Watch video at Eater (7:39 minutes) . . . . .

In Pictures: Breakfasts of Hotels in Japan

Walnuts Impact Gut Microbiome and Improve Health

Diets rich in nuts, such as walnuts, have been shown to play a role in heart health and in reducing colorectal cancer. According to a new study from the University of Illinois, the way walnuts impact the gut microbiome—the collection of trillions of microbes or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract—may be behind some of those health benefits.

Walnuts are just one in a line foods that contain dietary fiber and have interested scientists for their impact on the microbiome and health. Dietary fiber acts as a food source for gut microbiota, helping the bacteria to do their jobs—breaking down complex foods, providing us nutrients, or helping us feel full, for example.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes are important plant sources of dietary fiber. Eating a variety of these foods helps promote a diverse gut microbiota, which in turn helps to support health.

Findings from the study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, show that consuming walnuts not only impacted the gut microbiota and microbial derived secondary bile acids, but also reduced LDL-cholesterol levels in the adults participating in the study; good news for cardio, metabolic, and gastrointestinal health.

“We found that when you consume walnuts it increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health. So the interaction of walnuts with the microbiome is helping to produce some of those health effects,” says Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at U of I, and lead author of the study. “It is about getting to the ‘black box’ that is all the microbes in our GI tract to see how they are interfacing with the food we eat and having downstream health effects.

“Some of those health effects are hypothesized to be related to the metabolites bacteria produce,” she adds.

For the controlled-feeding study, 18 healthy male and female adults consumed diets that either included 0 grams of walnuts or 42 grams—about a third cup or a palm-full of walnuts—for two, three-week periods. Fecal and blood samples were collected at the beginning and end of each period to assess secondary outcomes of the study, including effects of walnut consumption on fecal microbiota and bile acids and metabolic markers of health.

Walnut consumption resulted in higher relative abundance of three bacteria of interest: Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Clostridium.

“The microbes that increased in relative abundance in this walnut study are from one of the Clostridium clusters of microbes, and there’s increased interest in those because they have the ability to make butyrate,” Holscher says. “Unfortunately in this study we didn’t measure butyrate, so we can’t say that just because these microbes increased that butyrate did increase. We still need to answer that question.

“There is a lot of interest in Faecalibacterium because it has also been shown in animals to reduce inflammation. Animals with higher amounts also have better insulin sensitivity. There is also growing interest in Faecalibacterium as a potential probiotic bacteria, and so we are trying to follow up on foods that help support Faecalibacterium.”

The findings also show, with walnut consumption, a reduction in secondary bile acids compared to the control. “Secondary bile acids have been shown to be higher in individuals with higher rates of colorectal cancer,” Holscher explains. “Secondary bile acids can be damaging to cells within the GI tract, and microbes make those secondary bile acids. If we can reduce secondary bile acids in the gut, it may also help with human health.”

Previous research that prompted this microbial research showed that the amount of energy (calories) derived from walnuts after we eat them is less than previously thought.

“When you do calculations to determine how much energy we predicted we would get from eating walnuts, it didn’t line up with the energy that was absorbed,” Holscher says. “You’re really only absorbing around 80 percent of the energy from walnuts that labels say. That means that the microbes get access to that extra 20 percent of calories and the fats and fiber left in them, and so what happens then? Does it produce a positive health outcome, or a negative health outcome? Our study provides initial findings that suggest that the interactions of microbes with the undigested walnut components are producing positive outcomes.

“We need more research to look at additional microbial metabolites and how those are influencing health outcomes, instead of just characterizing the changes in the microbiome,” Holscher says.

Source: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences


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