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4. Protein Is Powerful and Important

Nowadays, we hear a lot about protein in the media as if it is a new wonder nutrient. However, it has always been crucial to a balanced diet. It contributes to the development of muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, antibodies, hormones, and enzymes in your body. It is important in the building and maintaining of all bodily structures. It even acts as a source of energy when there are not enough carbohydrates and fats in the diet.

How Protein Is Used in the Body

Protein is built by a combination of chemical structures called “amino acids.” There are about twenty amino acids that the body needs, and these are often referred to as the building blocks of body. Of the twenty amino acids, nine are essential to the diet, meaning they must be supplied by the foods we eat. The remaining amino acids can be made in the body. When a food is consumed that includes all nine of the essential amino acids, it is referred to as a complete protein source. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products like milk and cheese all are complete protein sources. Incomplete sources of protein are those that do not contain the amount of essential amino acids needed by the body. These sources are primarily fruits and vegetables. But some plant sources offer some of the essential amino acids while others offer the remaining ones.

Cyndi’s Secrets

Rice and beans can be eaten at different times of the day and still make up a complete protein.

If you are a vegetarian, this is particularly important. You want to be sure you get your complete proteins. This can be accomplished by combining various sources of plant proteins with each other, therefore adding up to a complete protein. For example, if rice is consumed with beans, this combination becomes a complete protein source. 

Protein Requirements

The amount of protein needed by a person is based on age, sex, and body size. The recommended dietary allowance for protein in adult males over twenty years of age ranges from 58 to 63 grams per day. For adult females over twenty, the allowance ranges from 46 to 50 grams per day. Most people do not have trouble meeting protein requirements. In fact, many often consume up to twice as much.

Protein and Weight Reduction

Many people are into high-protein weight-reduction diets. They may have found that these high-protein diets can lead to weight loss. But excess protein in the diet is not a wise choice. Too much protein (and in many cases the excess fat that results) can lead to risk of health problems along with a condition called “ketosis.” By not having enough energy from carbs, the body starts using protein for energy. This makes your liver and kidneys work extra hard. You may not notice it right away, but this condition can be harmful in the long run. This is one reason that consuming excess protein through high-protein diets is not a healthy way to lose weight. Besides, many people on a high-protein diet are already eating more protein than their diet recommends.

Contribution of Protein to the Overall Diet

Protein should account for about 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories. For a person consuming a 2,000-calorie diet, with 15 percent from protein, this would equate to about 300 total calories. A variety of lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and dried beans and peas should contribute to this intake.

5. You Can Eat Fat

Fat often conjures up negative feelings. Certainly too much fat is linked to health problems like heart disease, stroke, obesity, and some types of cancers. But, in fact, fats are an essential part of all cells in the body. Fat helps maintain the health of the skin and hair, transports fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) throughout the body, cushions the body organs to keep them safe from injury, and serves as a protective insulator to the body on cold days.

In addition, fats contribute to the taste, smell, and texture of foods as well as providing a satiety factor of fullness after eating foods that contain it. The reason fats take so long to digest is because they are so calorie dense, containing 2.5 times the number of calories that are found in carbohydrates and protein. But in order to meet your body’s need for fat, you should aim to eat foods with the right type and amount of fat.

The Various Types of Fat

Understanding fats can be confusing. We often hear the terms “good” and “bad” fats. I use them too. In fact, the fat in my diet is primarily made up of “good” fats but I have the “bad” fats on occasion as part of my “discretionary calories.” Don’t you just love those? Following is a list of the various types of fat.

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats: These are called the good fats. Think of salmon, tuna, olives, avocados, canola oil, walnuts, and peanut oil.

Saturated Fats and Trans Fats: These are the bad guys. Foods with this type of fat include butter, margarine, ice cream, beef, processed foods, and mayonnaise.

The differences between these types of fats are a result of their chemical makeup. The more hydrogen the chemical makeup contains, the more saturated the fat becomes. It is also possible to distinguish some fats by their appearance. Saturated fats are those that are typically solid at room temperature, like lard, butterfat, and beef fat (the fat marbled throughout meat).

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN MAKE YOU FAT

Don’t be fooled by coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. These fats are an exception. They may be liquid vegetable oils, but they are actually saturated fats that can increase health risks of heart disease and cancer.

The bad trans fats are making headlines regularly. They are made up of polyunsaturated oils that are saturated with hydrogen atoms. Food companies love these because they help extend the shelf life of a food product. They have often been labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, which is very misleading. New laws are forcing corporations to label food products as having trans fats and to not use them at all. I wish trans fats would disappear from the planet. Try not to use these at all, even as your “discretionary calories.”

Health risks are primarily associated with diets high in saturated or trans fats and are known to increase overall risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are usually from plant sources and are liquid or soft at room temperature. These fats can actually help decrease health-related problems and reduce risk factors of heart disease and various types of cancers.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not a fat but is often categorized with fats. It’s a white, waxy substance found in animal products. It builds tissues and cell walls, and it is required for the manufacturing of hormones and bile. Cholesterol, a component of many foods like butter, egg yolk, meat fat, poultry skin, organ meats, and shellfish, is also made in the body. Because of health concerns with excessive consumption, cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams or less per day.

Cyndi’s Secrets

Cholesterol is found only in animal tissues. Therefore, foods containing it must come from an animal source. Foods like peanut butter cannot contain cholesterol.

Fat and Weight Control

For most Americans, cutting back to 20 to 35 percent or less of total calories from fat is a suggested goal, with 10 percent or less of this total coming from saturated fat. But it is not necessary to track the percentage of every kind of fat you eat. Instead, a simpler method would be to watch those fat grams. A diet that combines a variety of foods, both higher and lower in fat, in moderate portions helps to provide the variety and balance you need.

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