Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 09:46 AM EDT

Get The Protein You Need Directly from Plants

Jan 08, 2015 05:55 PM EST

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Bean Salad
(Photo : By Paul Goyette (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pgoyette/84062829/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

With the New Year upon us, many are making resolutions to change their eating habits to lose weight or just to be healthier.  Unfortunately, many Americans don't even know where to start. 

One of the first things many people do when they change their diet is reduce the amount of meat they consume.  While this is a great first step to losing weight, you must be sure you eat the right types of foods to replace the protein your body needs that it used to get from meat.   Many people turn to protein shakes as a way of replacing those missing nutrients.

Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, says, "Most people don't need protein shakes. But if you don't eat the foods that are richest in protein, it might be worth consulting a dietitian recommended by your doctor."

"We need protein in our diet mainly so that our bodies can make protein. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. When we eat and digest proteins, we break them up into their individual amino acids. Then our bodies use those components to build new proteins. There are 20 amino acids; nine are 'essential' for our health."

The question for many is how much protein should I eat?  The recommended daily allowance for protein intake is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. But that doesn't necessarily mean bulking up on the red meats.

There are many sources of protein including both plants and animals.  Meat, poultry, seafood, beans, legumes, eggs, cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds are rich in protein.  For people looking to eliminate much of the meat from their diet, there are many plant-based protein sources, as well.  The richest are legumes such as lentils and split peas, and beans, but vegetables like avocados are rich in proteins too. 

All of these are great sources for protein, but reducing the amount from animal-based products is definitely the healthier way to go, as plant-based proteins do not contain unhealthy saturated fats. But if you must eat meat, poultry and fish are the healthiest of the choices available.

"Inadequate protein can be an issue for older adults, particularly those who are not getting enough daily calories," Komaroff says.  "Reach for foods that will provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients as well as protein."

Reducing your meat consumption is the healthier choice to make, but you must remember to replace your protein intake from other sources.  Most people simply do not need a protein shake if they opt for a well balanced diet, rich in plant-based protein sources.  However, if you find yourself coming up short, they can be a good way to supplement your protein levels; though they might not be the most satisfying of meals.

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