On A High-Protein Diet? Here's What Your Plate Should Look Like
Protein is vital for good health. It helps in tissue repair and forms the structural framework of your body. It's a nutrient that must be consumed every day to meet your body's needs.
According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. It means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the woman, about 46 grams.
Sources of proteins
- Lean meats - Beef, lamb, veal, pork
- Poultry - Chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, bush birds
- Fish and seafood (prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams)
- Plant-based proteins: Pulses, beans, etc.
- Dairy products - Milk (including whey protein), yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially Cottage cheese)
Does protein come only from animal sources?
No, not exactly. Sure, chicken breasts, along with all other meat and fish are great sources of protein - so are eggs, yoghurt, milk, and cheese - but they aren't your only choices. Though plant proteins may lack some amino acids, some plant-based foods like quinoa and buckwheat are complete sources of protein. It is important for vegetarians and vegans to incorporate multiple sources of protein to ensure they receive all essential amino acids through the diet.
Best plant sources of proteins are soya beans, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, spirulina, chia seeds, etc.
Pros and cons
- More satisfying than other weight-loss plans
- Helps build and maintain muscle
- Wide variety of healthy food options
- Potential for nutrient deficiencies
- Processed foods sometimes encouraged
- Associated with some health risks
What does research say?
Higher protein, lower carbohydrate, energy-restricted diets have been shown to help offset the lean mass loss observed with conventional (~55% of energy intake) carbohydrate diets. Pairing higher protein intakes with exercise, especially resistance exercise, works synergistically by maintaining the lean mass during weight loss.
High-protein diet decreases bone density: Myth or Reality
Protein is the major structural constituent of bone (50% by volume). A high-protein diet increases calcium excretion in the urine. This finding led to the thought that the urinary calcium increase meant a loss of calcium from bone or bone demineralization.
In contrast to this expectation, a majority of the epidemiological studies involving this concern have clearly shown that long-term high-protein intake is associated with increased bone mineral density. This may be most apparent when calcium intake is optimal.
Know your body
The best diet for you is the one that offers nutrients and fuels your body's needs while also being a plan you can stick to. For some, this is a high-protein, weight-loss plan. If consumption of more protein helps you to eat less all day and build a stronger, more active body - it may be a good programme for you. Many athletes have resorted to a vegan diet and consume plant-based proteins. The key here is to include protein in your diet in alignment with your health objectives, keeping in mind the health risks associated with it.
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- Cao JJ, et al. Acid diet (high-meat protein) effects on calcium metabolism and bone health. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(6):698-702.
- Chege PM, et al. Influence of culture on dietary practices of children under five years among Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado, Kenya. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:131.
- Josse AR, et al. Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. J Nutr. 2011;141(9):1626-34.
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