Are You Getting Enough Protein?
Everywhere you turn these days something or someone is telling you that you need to eat more protein.
This message is pushed heavily by media, its a hot topic on many fitness related internet sites, food producers are all adding extra protein to their packaged foods lining the supermarket shelves and there are umpteen different protein powders currently available, plus new ones becoming available every week. So just in case you can’t get enough in by eating, luckily you can drink it now too!
And that is despite there not being any public health messages warning us that we are all suffering from protein deficiency!
Protein is definitely the flavour of the month (okay, it has actually been a few years now!) and everyone seems to be having a love affair with this macronutrient. Perhaps this is due to its magical properties. You see it can help you lose weight, but it can also help you gain weight if you want to bulk up. That it can have those two opposing effects really is pretty miraculous!
So should we all be eating loads of protein and replacing all of those wicked and evil carbs and sugar with it?
Oh but hang on, now someone else is telling me how I need to eat more fat….
WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH – HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?
AND ARE WE ALL REALLY THAT GULLIBLE?
Under normal circumstances, the average Australian eats more than double the amount of protein their body needs every day. More than double!
And I have not met anyone suffering from protein deficiency. But what I have seen is many people with serious illnesses which can be caused by eating too much protein, including a young guy who is now on dialysis as a result (the kidneys have the job of removing the waste product nitrogen resulting from the metabolism of protein foods such as meat and eggs, and they can only work so hard).
Well conducted, scientific studies have proven that excess protein intake is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers, several different cancers including the number one cancer in Australia, bowel cancer (which is on the rise in young people) and of course cardiovascular disease, which kills more Australians every year than anything else. High protein intakes are also associated with diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gall bladder issues, gout, kidney stones and rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention that it is well indicated in obesity and emerging research (not yet conclusive) shows higher animal protein consumption is linked to poor mood, loss of mental concentration and dementia.
Most of these illnesses don’t occur overnight, but trust me, on a high protein intake they will happen.
Thing is that when you eat, you eat food, not just nutrients like protein, and frankly, thank goodness!
Along with the food that most people eat to get their protein (meat) are other things that you don’t really want a lot of but can’t really avoid, like saturated fat. Plus that food can be lacking in other nutrients you do want more of, like fibre.
Now, I do agree on one thing, and that is we should include a protein source at every meal. But be selective about which type you choose – for example most plant protein foods contain almost no saturated fat and loads of fibre. I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian, just choose legumes several times a week as your protein source (need help doing this? I show you how in my veggie-licious cookbook)
And when eating meat and other high protein, high fat foods, don’t over-consume them!
And eat some carbs, trust me, they won’t kill you. But you need to choose the healthier ones of these too – surprisingly they aren’t biscuit, cakes, lollies and junk food!
Here is a great article explaining more about this unnecessary obsession with protein…
My favourite lines from this article…
“If you’re not in the ICU, you’re probably getting enough protein
What this means is that unless you’re sick or have an underlying medical condition, there’s a pretty good chance you’re all set on your protein intake.”
“Advertisements are tricking you into thinking you need more
This is tough to believe, but sometimes ads don’t tell the whole truth.”
“There’s this thing they call the ‘health halo effect’ — if consumers have the choice, they’re usually going to buy the one with extra protein in it, thinking it’s healthier. That’s not always the case.”
“Adding protein might be why you’re gaining weight” – and I see this in clinic all the time!
“But people typically have enough protein, so then what happens with the extra protein you’re eating? It turns into fat.”
“People who switch to low-carb, high-protein diets tend to cut out processed foods, which leads to weight loss.”
“We don’t really store protein. It’s a building block for things — enzymes, and to make parts of different cells — but there’s not not really area in our body that’s concentrated for protein. The body either uses it, or else we will pee it out — it’s one of the things that makes up urine — the rest of it just gets converted to fat.”
“There are 20 different amino acids that we eat in food. Some of them are essential, which means our body can’t make them, so we need to eat them, and some of them are not essential which means our body creates them. Research shows the protein that comes from animal sources (like red meat) is can lead to diseases and cancer, whereas [with] the plant proteins — like soy — that same association wasn’t found.”