Heart Health Series: Protein

Heart Health Series: Protein

Heart Health Series: Protein

If your read our Heart Health Series: Carbs blog, you know how important nutrition is for heart health.  It's time to learn about another important macronutrient, protein.  We often think about lean body mass when it comes to lean proteins like chicken and fish.  Let's dive into the research of protein and heart health.  How much to consume, when it's no longer beneficial, and easy ways to ensure you're getting enough in your diet.  

What Is Protein

Protein is a vital macronutrient that plays a crucial role in the growth and repair of tissues in the body. It is made up of long chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different types of amino acids, and the order and arrangement of these amino acids determine the shape and function of the protein. Proteins are found in a variety of foods including meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds. They are essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, producing enzymes and hormones, and maintaining a healthy immune system. It is important to consume enough protein in your diet to support these bodily functions, but it is also important to choose high-quality sources of protein that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

One of the main benefits of protein is its ability to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and by incorporating protein-rich foods into your diet, you can help to regulate your blood pressure levels.

Additionally, protein can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that a diet high in protein can increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is known as the “good” cholesterol. This can help to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is known as the “bad” cholesterol that can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Potential Risks of Overconsuming Protein in the American Diet

Americans are consuming excessive amounts of protein, posing potential health risks. The main issue is that extra protein is typically derived from meats that are high in saturated fats, which can result in increased LDL cholesterol, commonly known as the "bad" cholesterol. In addition, overeating protein leads to a decrease in the consumption of other essential food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, which most Americans already struggle to get enough of. This lack of variety can result in a deficiency of vital vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining a healthy heart.

The goal is to watch portion size when eating. You want to aim for 2-3 ounce servings of protein when eating to prevent overconsumption. It might be a smart snack idea to choose a veggie plate instead of a cheese plate because cheese adds extra saturated fat.

How Much and What to Choose?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, protein should make up about 10-35% of your daily calorie intake. The typical person should consume 0.8-1.0g protein per kilogram of body weight, which is calculated based on age and weight. For women and men, the recommended daily amount of protein is 46 grams and 56 grams, respectively. To put things into perspective, an 8 ounce glass of milk contains 8 grams of protein, while a cup of yogurt contains 11 grams. Additionally, one cup of dry beans has 16 grams of protein, and a 3 ounce meat serving has approximately 21 grams of protein. By consuming these recommended amounts, you should be able to meet your daily protein needs.

Additionally, plant-based protein sources can also be a great alternative or addition to your diet. Foods like beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa are all rich in protein and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. They also tend to be lower in fat and calories compared to some animal-based protein sources. When selecting plant-based protein sources, aim for a variety of colors to ensure you're getting a range of nutrients. For example, black beans are high in iron, while chickpeas are a great source of fiber. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new recipes to keep your protein intake interesting and delicious. With a little planning and creativity, you can ensure you're getting all the protein you need for a healthy and balanced diet.

Bars & Powder Sources

Protein is an important nutrient that plays a crucial role in building and repairing muscles, maintaining healthy bones, and supporting various bodily functions. While protein bars and powders can be convenient and offer a quick source of protein, it is always better to choose whole foods instead.

Whole foods are foods that are in their natural state, such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. These foods not only provide protein, but also other important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In addition, whole foods are generally more affordable than protein bars and powders, which can be quite expensive.

When choosing protein whole foods, it is important to choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, and beans, and to avoid sources that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy products. By choosing whole foods over bars and powders, you can ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need to support your health and fitness goals.

Nutrition for Longevity Home-Delivered Meals

If you're looking to choose protein in another healthy way, try selecting dishes that combine lean protein and vegetables. Soups and stir fry dishes are excellent options to consider. At Nutrition for Longevity, we offer stir fry dishes on our current menu: Tofu and Broccoli Stir Fry (a vegetarian option that features organic tofu, broccoli, garlic and ginger sauce, and mini corn), and Chicken Teriyaki with Stir Fry Vegetables (a crowd-pleaser that combines savory teriyaki chicken with a colorful blend of vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, red cabbage, onions, edamame, and scallions.) Our dishes are perfect for those who want to ensure their protein intake remains within a healthy range, while also enjoying a delicious and healthy meal.

At Nutrition for Longevity, we pride ourselves in creating flavorful masterpieces using pure ingredients providing you with nutrient-dense meals that promote health and wellness. Our mission is to allow humanity the opportunity to live healthy to 110!

Overall, incorporating protein into your diet can have significant benefits for heart health. As a reminder, eat a variety of protein sources including all types of lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts, so try to incorporate these into your meals as much as possible to promote a healthy heart.

 Stay Tuned for the Last part of this series: Fats