“NOW With MORE PROTEIN!” Your favorite granola boasts emphatically from its usual perch on the grocery store shelf. Huh. Sounds like an improvement. You shrug and toss it in the cart, continuing your trek through the isles...but now that it’s on your mind, you start to notice that isn’t the only thing boasting a protein punch. There’s protein cookies, protein pancake mix, protein yogurt (wasn’t that already full of protein anyway?), protein cereal, protein chips (what does that even mean?) -- the shelves are simply protein packed.
With all of this protein propaganda, you’d think that General Mills® and Kraft® were working overtime to fill a severe protein deficiency in American diets. Errr. Incorrect. In fact, most Americans are getting far more than their recommended daily dose.
Recommended daily protein intake from the CDC: 46 Grams for Women 56 Grams for Men
Now don’t get us wrong, protein is a key component of a healthy diet. In fact, we can consider proteins to be the building blocks of our bodies, coming together to make up our physical being in our muscles, tendons, organs, and skin and even all that good stuff we need inside our bodies to function properly like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other molecules that play key roles in keeping us healthy.
But you can have too much of a good thing.
So how do we balance our protein intake in a pro-protein world? The first step is not to focus too hard on what percentage and grams of protein we are taking in, but what kind of food we are giving our bodies.
It might be surprising to learn that nutrition science itself is relatively young. In fact, the first vitamin wasn’t even chemically isolated until 1926. Before, we didn’t really understand that there were all of these strange, invisible ingredients in our food, and that they might be useful in curing or preventing disease.
In some instances -- take Scurvy for example -- there is a linear path from vitamin (vitamin C in this case) to prevention. But for other things, the water is a bit murkier. This is the case with protein.
Recent studies tell us that plant protein is the best protein, and may even offer that direct link we are searching for to reducing your risk for heart disease. No need to toss the steak knives, but reducing the quantity of meat and incorporating plant proteins into your meals as well could do double time for your health. Not only is the plant protein packed with positives, but diets high in animal protein have been linked to early death and disease. However, as with all nutrition science, the verdict is ever-changing, and the best thing you can do for your body is simple: eat a wide variety of fresh foods, drink your recommended 8(ish) glasses of water, and don’t skip Pilates.