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The Power of Protein

When I look at “diet diaries” one of the first things I check is the balance of our 3 macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. More often than not, I see a big deficit in the amount of protein being consumed. We are a carbohydrate happy community! Unfortunately, this is one of the main reasons we’re also getting fatter and sicker as a community.

The average American diet contains approximately 48% carbohydrates (higher in women), 16% protein, and 34% total fat. An easy measurement tool is that at minimum we should consume 0.36 g of protein per 1 pound of body weight. (Ex: 150 lb person x 0.36 = 54 g protein/day) The scales aren’t balancing! We consume much more carbohydrate than necessary, and that is one of the leading causes of the Diabetes epidemic. We eat too many carbs and the roller coaster of blood sugar balance begins.

Protein is a very helpful tool when managing blood glucose levels due to its much more subtle effect on our blood sugar. Unlike carbohydrates, protein does not elevate blood sugar as much nor as quickly when it is consumed. To ensure more adequate protein intake, I often advise patients to always include a protein source with every meal and snack. For example, having an apple with a handful of almonds (or almond butter) is a great way to get some healthy fruit AND protein to satisfy hunger and to lessen the sugar-shock on the body.

Besides assisting in blood sugar balance, protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. It is particularly important in the early stages of development of children and protein also happens to be a building block for bone, cartilage, skin, hair, and blood.

It is important to consider your sources of protein. Animal meats are by far the best source relating to quantity of protein. However, we don’t always have the greatest quality of meats available. To avoid added hormones and antibiotics, I encourage everyone to read the food labels. OR go directly to the source. Farms, farmer’s markets, and butchers are going to carry higher quality meats than your general grocery store. The prices may be higher, but the peace of mind that you’re putting quality meat into your family’s bodies is well worth it.

Living in Virginia Beach is a great excuse to take advantage of the seafood available. Fish is an excellent source of protein, also containing those sought after Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Seafood markets are the best resource, but if you’re shopping in the grocery store, look for “wild caught” on the package to ensure you’re not consuming corn-fed fish raised in glorified bathtubs.

Eggs… there has been so much controversy over eggs throughout the years, especially regarding cholesterol levels. Egg’s aren’t so bad for you! In fact, the eggs are considered to contain the “perfect protein” due to the amino acid makeup. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, some of which are essential to get in the diet. Eggs contain them all!! Just like all of the other products above, it’s important to consider your source of protein. Farmers and farmer’s markets are the way to go if you can!

Dairy products can be another great resource for protein intake. Milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. all contain protein. I like to caution people, however, about using too much yogurt as a source due to the added sugar. If you don’t already eat Greek yogurt, it’s time to switch! For example, Yoplait Original Yogurt contains 27 grams of sugar or more than 5 teaspoons.

Legumes, nuts, and seeds. For our vegetarian and vegan friends, these are a staple in the diet to ensure protein intake. They can also be a fantastic addition to the standard diet to avoid overeating animal proteins and have other sources of protein for snacks. It is important to note that legumes, nuts, and seeds don’t always contain all of those essential amino acids. If you do not eat animal protein, make sure you eat a variety of other sources to get as much as you can.

If you need help balancing your diet and want to explore healthy options, Body Logic is here to help!