Week 2: PROTEIN
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into our nutrition so we will talk about macronutrients, which are nutrients required by the body in large amounts. These include protein, carbohydrates and fats. Water may also be included since it is needed in large amount but has no calories.
In week 2, we will focus on protein. I have tried to include the most relative information to make this an easy, fairly short read. Well, I tried.
PROTEIN (amino acids) - the main building blocks of the human body
• There are 4 calories per gram of protein.
• 20-30% of total daily calories should come from protein (46 grams for adult women).
• Women in menopause typically need more protein. Protein should be increased on lifting days (consumed within 40 minutes after work out) and also if in a calorie deficit.
• All animal-based foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs, are complete proteins.
• Excluding water, muscles are composed of about 80% protein.
• More muscle helps you live longer, better and helps keep you independent as you age.
At its simplest, a protein is a chain of amino acids bound to one another and resembling a string of beads. These strings get twisted and folded into a final protein shape. When we eat protein, it gets broken down into its individual amino acids, which can be reassembled into whatever type of protein our body needs at that time.
Eating protein-rich foods may help you meet and maintain your weight goals by satisfying hunger and reducing the urge to snack between meals. The importance of quality nutrition is even greater as our appetite and calorie needs decrease with age; preserving our body’s muscle tissue by maintaining protein intake allows us to stay active.
Amino acids are molecules used by all living things to make proteins. Your body needs 20 different amino acids to function correctly. Nine of these amino acids are called essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are NOT made by the body and must be consumed through the food you eat. Essential amino acids can be found in a variety of foods, including beef, eggs and dairy.
The nine essential amino acids are:
• Histidine: helps make a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called histamine. Histamine plays an important role in your body’s immune function, digestion, sleep and sexual function.
• Isoleucine: is involved with your body’s muscle metabolism and immune function. It also helps your body make hemoglobin and regulate energy.
• Leucine: helps your body make protein and growth hormones. It also helps grow and repair muscle tissue, heal wounds and regulate blood sugar levels.
• Lysine: is involved in the production of hormones and energy. It’s also important for calcium and immune function.
• Methionine: helps with your body’s tissue growth, metabolism and detoxification. Methionine also helps with the absorption of essential minerals, including zinc and selenium.
• Phenylalanine: is needed for the production of your brain’s chemical messengers, including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It’s also important for the production of other amino acids.
• Threonine: plays an important role in collagen and elastin. These proteins provide structure to your skin and connective tissue. They also help with forming blood clots, which help prevent bleeding. Threonine plays an important role in fat metabolism and your immune function, too.
• Tryptophan: helps maintain your body’s correct nitrogen balance. It also helps make a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called serotonin. Serotonin regulates your mood, appetite and sleep.
• Valine: is involved in muscle growth, tissue regeneration and making energy.
Your body produces the rest of the 11 nonessential amino acids you need: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
We are going to focus on the essential aminos since we must get these from our nutrition.
Essential amino acids can be found in many different foods. The best sources of amino acids are found in animal proteins such as beef, poultry and eggs. Animal proteins are the most easily absorbed and used by your body. Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, quinoa and buckwheat.
Foods that contain some but not all the essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins. These foods include nuts, seeds, beans and some grains. Incomplete proteins found in plant foods can be mixed together to make a complete protein. As a general rule, grains, cereals, nuts, or seeds can be eaten together with dried beans, dried peas, lentils, peanuts or peanut butter. Examples of these combinations include peanut butter on wheat bread, rice and beans, and split pea soup with corn bread.
Unlike carbs or fats that can be stored in the body for future use, unused amino acids (protein) are excreted. Consuming a lot of food with a protein that has low biological value will not be very effective because most of the protein will not be utilized. When two plant based protein sources are eaten at a meal, say a grain (rice) and a pulse (lentils), the amino acids of one protein may compensate for the limitations of the other, resulting in a combination of higher biological value.
DAIRY: foods derived from the milk of mammals
Dairy foods contain two major forms of protein: whey and casein. Eighty percent of milk’s protein content comes from casein and the remaining 20% is whey. Whey is rapidly digested, while casein is digested more slowly, providing a more prolonged entry of amino acids into the bloodstream. When making foods like yogurt or cheese, excess liquid that contains whey protein is strained away, leaving a solid or semi-solid product that may have a higher casein-to-whey proportion compared with milk.
Different dairy foods can have different amounts of protein per serving. This is often due to the processing steps used to make each type of product. For example, yogurt varieties like Greek yogurt and Icelandic skyr are typically thicker in texture and higher in protein than traditional yogurt. This difference is due to the fact that they are strained one or two more times than regular yogurt, which removes additional liquid, concentrates the product and increases the amount of protein found in one serving. Also, low-fat milk may have a slightly higher protein content per serving compared with whole milk, since removal of some fat increases the proportion of protein per serving. On the opposite end of the dairy–protein spectrum, ice cream has only a few grams of protein per serving—it’s higher in added sugar and calories compared with many other dairy products—and butter has almost no protein, since it’s almost completely made up of fat.
Like other animal-based foods, milk, yogurt and cheese are considered high-quality sources of protein because they contain all essential amino acids. In comparison, most plant-based milk alternatives are lacking in one or more essential amino acids (soymilk is one exception to this). Often, plant-based dairy alternatives have less protein per serving than cow’s milk.
Food Serving Size Protein Content (in grams)
Greek yogurt 6 ounces 17
Cottage cheese, 2% ½ cup 11.8
Mozzarella cheese 1.5 ounces 10
Cheddar cheese 1.5 ounces 9.6
Yogurt, plain, low fat 6 ounces 9
Milk, 1% 1 cup 8.2
Milk, whole 1 cup 7.7
Ice cream ½ cup 2.3
Butter 1 Tablespoon 0.1
Here is a link to a more inclusive list dairy proteins
One of my personal biggest questions has been: full fat, reduced fat or no fat?!?!?
An important reason why you shouldn’t eat full-fat dairy with abandon is that—unlike the so-called healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, oily fish, and nuts — dairy products primarily contain saturated fat, which can contribute to heart disease risk.
Let’s not forget that full fat dairy contains more calories so you should measure your servings. Some research suggests people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less and are less likely to develop diabetes, too. There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy. Studies have found that when people reduce how much fat they eat, they tend to replace it with sugar or carbohydrates, both of which can have worse effects on insulin and diabetes risk.
A rule of thumb is to have no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day for the average 2,000-calorie diet. So, for most women, one to three servings of dairy a day is sufficient. Eggs are NOT considered dairy, they are an animal by-product, which leads us to….
MEAT (yep, animal flesh) - beef, pork, poultry, seafood
(also bison, deer, quail, et. but I am focusing on the most common)
Meat is a very efficient deliverer of protein. Because the muscles of animals and humans share the same components, eating animal tissue is an easy way to get this necessary nutrient.
The healthier choices are lean meats, types and cuts of meat that have less fat (look for 90% lean), and skinless poultry. Limit the amount of red and processed meats because they often have higher amounts of saturated fat and other compounds that can cause adverse health effects. Additionally, Grass-fed and organic meat can have more beneficial fat profiles and antioxidants. Grilling, broiling and baking instead of roasting and frying helps reduce someone’s overall fat intake.
· skinless chicken and turkey not containing visible fat
· lean ground turkey or chicken
· wild game
Pork and beef
· beef and pork with a label that says “loin” or “round,” as these have the least fat
· beef sirloin
· flat-iron steak
· bone-in pork loin chops
· “choice” or “prime” cuts of beef with excess fat cut off
· 95% lean ground beef for hamburgers or meatloaf
Seafood (white fish is less fatty) - consume fewer calories and fat to meet daily protein needs. Tops picks (per 100 grams):
· Pollack - 17.4G
· Cod - 17.5G
· Prawns - 17.6G
· Sardines - 19.8G
· Salmon - 20.4G
· Crab - 20.5G
· Halibut - 21.5G
· Lobster - 22.1G
EGGS – (not dairy) an animal by-product
A whole egg contains all the nutrients required to turn a single cell into a baby chicken! One egg has:
· 75 calories
· 7 grams of high-quality protein
· 5 grams of fat
· 1.6 grams of saturated fat
· iron, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids; disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin
· one study found that the human body could use 91% of the protein in cooked eggs
Eggs are a complete protein; the yolks are high in protein, fat and cholesterol. There are several types of eggs:
Free Range eggs as defined by the USDA require that birds have access to the outdoors.
Cage-free eggs are from birds that are not raised in cages, but in floor systems usually in an open barn.
Organic eggs come from chickens fed organic feed and given no antibiotics.
Vegetarian eggs are produced from chickens fed only vegetarian feed with no meat added.
Cooking eggs makes the protein in them more digestible. It also helps make the vitamin biotin more available for your body to use.
· Boiled - Hard-boiled eggs are cooked in their shells in a pot of boiling water for 6–10 minutes, depending on how well cooked you want the yolk to be. The longer you cook them, the firmer the yolk will become.
· Poached - Poached eggs are cooked in slightly cooler water. They’re cracked into a pot of simmering water between 160–180°F and cooked for 2.5–3 minutes.
· Fried - Fried eggs are cracked into a hot pan that contains a thin layer of cooking fat. You can then cook them “sunny side up,” which means the egg is fried on one side, or “over easy,” which means the egg is fried on both sides.
· Baked - Baked eggs are cooked in a hot oven in a flat-bottomed dish until the egg is set.
· Scrambled - Scrambled eggs are beaten in a bowl, poured into a hot pan, and stirred over low heat until they set.
· Omelet - To make an omelet, eggs are beaten, poured into a hot pan, and cooked slowly over low heat until they’re solid. Unlike scrambled eggs, an omelet isn’t stirred once it’s in the pan.
· Microwaved - Microwaves can be used to cook eggs in many different ways. It takes much less time to cook eggs in a microwave than it does on a stove. However, it’s usually not a good idea to microwave eggs that are still inside their shells. This is because pressure can quickly build up inside them, and they may explode.
LEGUMES, NUTS & SEEDS
Legumes (beans, lentils, peas and soy) are typically higher in carbs but also have lots of fiber. They contain protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. They're also low in fat and calories.
A half-cup serving of legumes contains
· 115 calories
· 1 g fat
· 20 g carbohydrates
· 8 g protein
· 7 to 9 g fiber
Beans and legumes have antioxidants that help prevent cell damage. Eating legumes can lower blood pressure and inflammation, which are two risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Legumes may also aid in preventing and managing serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and related conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol.
Nuts are actually the seeds of plants. Most are the seeds of trees; peanuts, however, are the seeds of a legume.
Although high in fats, nuts are good sources of healthy fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and are low in (unhealthy) saturated fats. Nuts also help to maintain healthy blood vessels and blood pressure (through their arginine content), and reduce inflammation in the body as they are high in antioxidants.
Research shows that making nuts a regular part of a healthy diet helps to regulate our weight, and can protect against chronic diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes).
Protein Source Power Rankings
Here are 20 nuts, seeds, and legumes ranked based on the percentage of calories in a serving that come from protein.
Edamame – 43%
Lentils – 28%
Fava Beans – 22%
Green Peas – 20%
Pumpkin Seeds – 19%
Chickpeas – 18%
Peanuts – 17%
Pistachios – 15%
Almonds – 15%
Sunflower Seeds – 15%
Chia Seeds – 14%
Sesame Seeds – 13%
Cashews – 10%
Walnuts – 9%
Hazelnuts – 9%
Brazil Nuts – 8%
Pine Nuts – 8%
Pecans – 6%
Coconut – 4%
Macadamia Nuts – 4%
Although healthy, these little guys are high in fat and calories so you should stick to the serving sizes. They provide crunch, flavor, and enjoyment at meals and when snacking. Unfortunately, they don’t provide much nutrition per calorie. Also, once you start eating nuts, it can be difficult to stop. Eating too many nuts can increase your caloric intake, making weight loss more difficult. Aim for no more than a small handful no matter what type of nut you choose. Also, portion them out and eat them in a small bowl rather than from the container.
There are also nut milks available. Each type of milk has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on a person’s diet, health, nutritional needs, or personal taste preferences.
With all varieties, choose the unsweetened versions. Milk and milk alternatives can double their amount of sugar if they’re sweetened with added sugars.
WHOLE GRAINS – key word is “whole” (unprocessed)
A whole grain is a grain of any cereal and pseudocereal that contains the endosperm, germ, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. As part of a general healthy diet, consumption of whole grains is associated with lower risk of several diseases.
Grains are a staple source of calories, carbohydrates, B-vitamins, and protein. Whole unrefined grains provide more protein for each carb because the bran and germ of grains contain the most protein per carb. Reﬁning grains takes away half to two-thirds of a wide range of nutrients!!
Grains high in protein include:
· kamut (wheat berries)
· quinoa (my personal favorite)
· whole-wheat pasta
· wild rice
One thing to know about the protein in grains: with the exception of quinoa and amaranth, grain proteins are not “complete proteins.” This means they’re missing or low in one or more essential amino acids. But eating a variety of plant-based foods takes care of that; when you enjoy both beans and grains throughout the week, for example, their complementary proteins combine to give you just what your body needs.
There are unlimited options out there in the form of powders, bars, drinks and pills. I am going to focus on powders since those are the most common way of getting additional protein.
Protein powders can seem like an easy way to get some protein into your diet if meeting your protein intake for the day is a challenge. But protein powders can contain sugars, artificial flavorings, thickeners, and toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your health.
There are also many TYPES of protein shakes, depending of the source of protein:
Whey protein is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for day-to-day use. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested. It helps boost energy and can reduce stress levels. Whey isolates and concentrates are best to use after a workout.
Soy protein is another common choice. It helps reduce high cholesterol and can ease symptoms of menopause for some women. It can also help with osteoporosis by helping build bone mass.
Other options are:
Egg protein, released more slowly than whey, can be taken throughout the day.
Milk proteins help support immune function and enhance muscle growth.
Brown Rice protein, which is 100% plant-based, is a good choice for vegetarians or for people who don’t consume dairy products. It’s also gluten-free.
Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic and economical.
Hemp protein is also 100% plant-based. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are some general guidelines, based on the outcomes you may be looking for:
1. Build muscle — For muscle growth, choose a protein powder with a high biological value (a value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein). Whey protein and whey isolates are your best options.
2. Lose weight — For weight loss, choose shakes with no added sugars or dextrins/maltodextrins (sweeteners made from starch). Don’t choose those with added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), as they help promote muscle growth and weight gain.
3. Stay vegetarian or vegan — If you’re vegetarian or vegan, don’t choose milk-based protein shakes (like whey, milk proteins); instead use 100% plant proteins-soy, pea, hemp.
4. Go low-sugar with diabetes — Patients who have diabetes should choose protein shakes without added sugar (don’t choose protein powders with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients). It’s also best to look for a shake that’s low in carbohydrates ( 5-15 grams per serving).
5. Limit protein for kidney disease — People with kidney disease can’t tolerate a lot of protein at one time. Stick with powders that have a lower-range protein content (10 to 15 grams per serving).
6. Avoid gastrointestinal problems — Patients with irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance should choose powders that don’t contain lactose sugars, artificial sweeteners or dextrins/maltodextrins. If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, don’t choose powders that contain gluten.
7. Stick to your budget — To save money, buy tubs of protein powder instead of ready-to-drink protein shakes, which are more expensive because they’re convenient.
I tried and liked PerfectAminos capsules by bodyhealth. I’ve heard good things about their mixes too so I am going to include a link to their website and you can take a look: bodyhealth