What Are the Pros of Protein (and the Cons)?
Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.
By Madhusudhan Tammisetti
One of your strongest allies in the fight for good health is protein. It is among the vital nutrients needed by your body for functioning and healing. There are several high-protein foods that you may need, and it is crucial that you include a sufficient amount of protein in your diet on a regular basis. The amount of protein needed by an individual is going to vary depending on a variety of factors, including age, gender, weight, and health.
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. Amino acids are responsible for various functions of the body. Although there are 11 non-essential amino acids that can be produced within the body, the 9 essential amino acids are not made by the body. You can fulfill the requirement of these amino acids by consuming protein-rich food.
Both animal products and plant-based diets can provide protein. People can choose their source of protein on the basis of their needs and preferences. It is crucial to maintain a balanced intake of protein to get the maximum benefits.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of protein.
What Are the Main Food Sources of Protein?
It is important for healthy adults to include a sufficient amount of protein in their regular diet. Eggs, grains, nuts, fish, lean meat, and dairy are some of the most common sources of protein that can be easily added to your meals.
You can consume eggs whole, boiled, or poached. A 100g portion of egg can offer 12.56 grams of protein. Eggs are rich in other nutrients like minerals, Vitamin B12, antioxidants, and healthy fats. There are several other ways to include eggs into your diet, such as making an omelet or French toast.
Lentils are among the best options as a plant-based protein source. Some other nutrients offered by lentils are fiber, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper, and folate. When you consume 100g of cooked lentils, you get 9.02g of protein. You can boil lentils with salt and spices to eat them.
Chicken breast can also be included in a high-protein diet because it is a rich protein source. Vitamin B and minerals are other vital nutrients offered by chicken breast. A 100g portion of chicken breast provides 31g of protein. Chicken breast can be cooked in a variety of ways to be included in your meal.
Protein powders are a handy source of protein. It is simple to include whey protein or pea protein into your diet. You can add it to your yogurt, shakes, energy balls, and smoothies and take them on the go. The amount of protein provided by whey and pea protein is different. While 100g of whey protein can offer 58.1g of protein, the same amount of pea protein can offer 75g of protein.
Some other good sources of protein that can easily be a part of your meals on a regular basis are almonds, Greek yogurt, cheese, milk, quinoa, and peanuts. Although the amount of protein needed by a human body is likely to vary on the basis of several factors, 1.2 to 2g of protein per kg of body weight is needed per day for active individuals; a kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.
What Are the Pros of Protein?
Protein is renowned for increasing the mass and strength of the muscles, which is more heavy than fat, so it ensures a healthy weight gain. Protein consumption can aid in your weight loss journey because it makes you feel satiated and improves the function of weight-regulating hormones. It prevents the loss of muscles when losing fat and boosts metabolism. Consuming an adequate amount of protein can also ensure better bone mass while lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Protein promotes faster recovery of injuries in the body because it aids the formation of organs and tissue cells. The amino acids present in protein act as crucial components of your immunity system. They help the body to identify and kill potentially harmful cells before they enter and cause any harm to the body. Protein is also responsible for carrying oxygen, minerals, sugar, vitamins, and cholesterol through the blood cells. Certain proteins are also responsible for the storage of nutrients, such as iron, to ensure a backup for your body.
What Are the Cons of Protein?
Although high protein intake might seem like supporting the weight loss journey in the short term because it makes you feel fuller, it is not actually healthy in the long term. Consuming more protein than necessary can lead to certain health complications. A high-protein diet can limit carbs and imbalance the proportion of nutrients in your diet, which may lead to health issues like bad breath, constipation, and headaches.
Certain sources of high protein, like red meat and meat poultry, have high amounts of saturated fats. Food with high saturated fats can promote bad cholesterol and put you at risk of heart disease.
The risk of kidney damage and digestive issues are other significant consequences that you might face if you eat too much protein. If you are trying to lose weight, it is suggested to contact a healthcare provider, particularly when you have chronic health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, to ensure that your protein intake is harmless.
How Can Vegetarians or Vegans Get Enough Protein?
There are different types of vegetarians, including Lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and vegan. However, vegetarianism basically refers to people who wish to keep their diet mainly plant-based. While animal-based products can be rich sources of protein, a well-planned vegetarian diet can also meet your nutrient needs.
Vegetarians can fulfill their need for protein through legumes and beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and dairy. There are a variety of beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables that can be included in the vegetarian diet, making the meal both delicious and rich in protein.
Because they are more concerned about their impact on the environment, vegans exclude animal-based products like dairy and honey. However, there are plenty of vegan sources of protein, such as seitan, tempeh, tofu, edamame, soy milk, oat milk, whole grains, and beans.
How Does Protein Contribute to Maintaining a Healthy Weight?
Consumption of the desired amount of protein can effectively help a person maintain a healthy body weight. Higher protein consumption changes the levels of multiple weight-regulating hormones. The hypothalamus present in the brain is responsible for regulating your weight. It sends information in the form of hormones regarding when and how much to eat, which regulates your cravings and eating patterns. Consuming more protein over carbs and fat increases the level of satiety hormones, which helps in reducing appetite and, eventually, you will feel less hungry.
Including more protein in your diet can burn a high amount of calories due to high metabolism after intake, thermic effects in your body, and other factors. The number of calories burnt can be increased from 80 to 100 if you choose to consume more protein. Some calories are used for the purpose of digesting the food, and proteins burn more of it, which reduces the overall calorie count of the body.
Protein Supplements and Their Potential Risks
Protein supplements are the most convenient source of protein, and they can help meet your body’s requirements for protein in the fastest way possible. However, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with protein supplements to avoid their bad effects in the short or long term.
Complications in the digestive system are among the most common side effects of protein supplements. Bloating, nausea, and bowel movements are common complications related to the digestive system that can be faced with excessive consumption of protein supplements. It can also cause symptoms like loss of appetite, headache, acne, thirst, and headache.
Intake of protein supplements in a higher amount that does not match your workout regimen can also lead to unhealthy weight gain. If you do not burn more calories than you consume, it can pile up and convert into fat. Moreover, the ammonia produced by the breakup of protein inside the body can convert into urea. Excess of this urea in the body can increase the pressure on the kidneys and may lead to kidney damage. Disruption in hormones, liver damage, dehydration, drug reactions, and heavy metal poisoning are some other potential risks of extreme protein supplement intake.
It is suggested to take protein supplements after proper consultation with a doctor and limit the dosage according to the needs of your body.
Get Protein, But Not Too Much
The importance of protein in a well-balanced diet cannot be emphasized enough. Protein offers a healthy weight to your body and promotes healing of the tissues. If you are trying to increase body mass or build a muscular body, protein is a vital nutrient to include in your diet -- along with a stout workout routine that would likely include heavy lifting.
There are multiple sources of protein for people with different diet preferences. This includes both plant and animal-based food products. However, an excess amount of protein intake can be hazardous to health in the long-term. Thus, it is crucial to recognize the right amount of protein needed by your body to enjoy the several significant benefits offered by it.
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