Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dietary Protein- Hype or Healthful?

There is a lot of talk and hype these days about dietary protein. Some people think you need to eat more or take protein supplements for a healthy diet. Others may be low in protein but never realize it. How do you know how much you may need, and what kinds are the best? What about whey protein? Is a higher protein diet good for weight loss? These are all common questions I have been asked, and you may have questions about. The RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowance, in the United States for dietary protein ranges from 46-56 grams for adults, or .37 grams/pound of body weight. In the U.S, it is very rare to not consume enough dietary protein, but in many developing countries it is a major cause of malnutrition. Sometimes those who have trouble eating may be low in protein, such as the frail elderly, or those recovering from surgery or burns have higher needs. Otherwise, most of us consume more than we need, which we convert into either glycogen for energy, or is stored as fat. Conversely, some people who have kidney disease may be harmed if they consume too much protein. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have a few new recommendations for protein intake. First is to eat a variety of protein foods, not only meats and poultry, but seafood (twice a week), eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy foods. In particular, it states to replace protein foods higher in solid fats, such as meat, full fat dairy, and poultry, with those that are lower in solid fats and/or are higher in oils, like soy, nuts and seeds or beans. When reading the Nutrition Facts labels, a good source of protein is 5-9.9 grams and high source is 10 or more grams per serving. If you are vegan, simply eating a variety of non-animal sources of protein is sufficient. So, save your money if you are purchasing protein supplements. They can be very expensive, and for healthy people are unnecessary. What about whey protein and weightlifting? Whey is the non-fat part of milk that is left when milk is curdled to make cheese. It also contains lactose, vitamins, minerals, and other substances. It is an excellent source of protein and often an ingredient in protein bars, beverages, and yogurt. It contains a high amount of the amino acid (a building block of protein) leucine, playing an important role in the body’s utilization of energy, and also helps stimulate the body’s synthesis of muscle. Do you need a special supplement of whey to recover and build muscle? No. Simply drink milk or eat yogurt. Lastly, it is a good idea to heave a source of protein in a meal or snack for weight control. Protein takes a little longer than carbohydrate to digest, and thus provides a feeling of fullness, or satiety. It helps the body control blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels, therefore controlling hunger. So it is all about calorie balance with how much you burn off whether you are gaining, controlling or losing weight. Have any other questions about protein? Consult with a registered dietitian, or check www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more answers.

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