The Protein Craze

We are currently in yet another food fad in this country - The Protein Craze!

As if we really need to be concerned about not getting enough protein! Americans typically eat WAY more than they need, and especially in animal products. Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in how our bodies function, but despite all the hooplah about high-protein diets, our protein requirements are really not that much: only about a third of a gram per pound of body weight.  

Protein should provide about 15% of an average healthy person’s daily calories. As a rule of thumb, people of both sexes and any size will do fine with about 60 grams of protein a day. 

About 6-12 ounces of meat for example, will more than fit the bill! If you are active and a regular exerciser, you will need more protein in your diet. (This is not an estimate for professional athletes or bodybuilders, this is only for the average person.) A woman’s risk of breast cancer goes up significantly the more animal protein they consume, so it’s recommended that women only have one serving of animal flesh per day. In fact, eating a high-meat diet is related to a much higher risk for many diseases in both males and females, especially heart disease and colon cancer. Excess dietary protein also increases calcium loss in the urine, raising the risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones, and resulting in more inflammation throughout the body.

To avoid weight gain, you don’t want to take in more protein than you need. Your body will use the protein it needs and actually just store any extra as fat! We also need to be concerned with meat sourced from factory farms that raise animals loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics, and increasingly provide products contain salmonella contamination, not something you will find in organic sources, nor in most local sources of meat. Just keep in mind, it’s always more important to eat a varied diet than to isolate and focus on any one nutrient.

Did You Know? A cup of cooked lentils provides you with almost 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber! Lentils are also loaded with iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium and folate. In fact, plant foods are a great source to fill your protein needs. Including more plant sources of protein will also offer more health benefits including more fiber and nutrients. There are lots of nutrient dense foods with a high protein content!