Lifting the lid on Macronutrients: Protein, the myths debunked

 

Protein, the building blocks of life! We each need a daily dose of protein – but the evidence can be confusing. What really are our individual protein requirements? How can they be met? And how can we navigate the conflicting evidence? We spoke to Dr Clare Wyld, GP and Naturopathic Nutritionist, to understand the science of protein and to help decipher some of the confusing rhetoric around this vital component of all our diets.

Feedr’s High Protein filter

We all know too well that 4PM slump from our lunchtime sandwich, or the hunger prangs that follow our leafy green salad. Whatever your diet or food goals, a high protein lunch can help keep us fuller for longer and sustain us through our busy working days. Feedr’s ‘High Protein’ filter arms our Cloud Canteen customers, whether plant based or meat-eaters, with the tools to understand the true protein content of their meal.

So what does this filter mean?

Every dish marked as high protein will provide you with a healthy helping of 10g of protein, equating to around 20% of your daily protein intake. Looking for more detail? We also display the full nutritional breakdown of our cloud canteen meals including the grams of protein and proportionate amount of each of the macros.

Protein, what is it and why are our bodies so reliant on it?

Proteins are the building blocks of life, they are the integral to the makeup of every living thing on earth. They have numerous uses throughout our bodies and different proteins provide different functions: structure (e.g. muscles and cartilage), cellular communication (receptors and cell membranes), digestion (enzymes) and transport (haemoglobin transports oxygen).

Proteins are made up of a sequence of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in nature and of these there are 9 are essential, meaning our bodies cannot make them and they must be found in our diets. Different protein sources contain different variations of amino acids. So what’s the goal? We need to consume all 9 essential amino acids in our diets daily, but they can come from a range of sources throughout the day.

What are our key sources of protein?

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy or animal derived protein, are for many of us, the ones that spring to mind. They serve as dense sources of protein and are considered ‘complete’ meaning they contain all nine of our essential amino acids.

There are also plenty of plant derived protein sources including a few ‘complete’ options: quinoa, buckwheat, soya, hempseed and blue-green algae. If they aren’t taking your fancy a diet rich in beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and meat alternatives like seitan and tempeh can also help you achieve your amino goals. It’s not all about hitting the complete set in one go, if you eat a wide variety of these food types throughout the day you CAN accumulate your essential amino acids when following a vegan diet. Plant based proteins are not only delicious, but they also come with added extras – vitamins, minerals and of course, fibre!

How much protein do we really need?

In truth, we don’t need a huge amount of protein, but what is important is that we get the right amount every day! The recommended amount is 0.75-1g per kg, so if you weigh 70kg that’s between 52.5g and 70g of protein a day. There are certain people who have a higher protein requirement, however this requirement doesn’t change dramatically and is often grossly overestimated. These groups include pregnant women who need more like 1.5g/kg and high intensity athletes who may need slightly more still at around 1.2-1.8g/kg.

Demystifying common protein myths

It’s worth considering that you can overdo the amount of protein you eat, to the detriment of your health. In a world of gym bunny bulking (protein shakes, hourly meat feasts) and protein based diets like keto and atkins – what are the pitfalls we fall into and the associated risks?

Myth 1: You can never have enough? There is no benefit in surpassing your daily requirement. Too much protein can put undue strain on your kidneys, which our bodies simply can’t process.

Myth 2: Meat, meat, meat? Over indulging in animal protein especially processed meat (not just your fast food burger – think sausages and bacon) could increase your risk of high cholesterol and certain types of cancer.

Myth 3: Protein powders, shakes & bars – cleverly marketed for gym goers, are often expensive and packed full of artificial flavours, sugar or sweeteners – be sure to read the label carefully. The truth is, we can get our complete protein requirements from a diet and natural sources. So if your on the fence, why not try a veggie based smoothie with added plain yoghurt and nut butter.

Myth 4: Atkins, Keto High protein diets like the Atkins diet can leave you at risk of missing out on key vitamins, minerals and fibre, and lead to overdoing your saturated fats. And what’s worse – a high saturated fat and low fibre diet leads to an unhappy gut!

So there we have it, the truth about protein. It’s about quality not quantity – understand your individual need, forget the processed meats, get a protein hit daily and whatever your diet, include a variety of protein sources (don’t forget the plentiful plant sources!). This will ensure your topped up with essential amino acids and your body has all the protein it needs to keep you healthy.

Follow Dr Clare @wyldhealth and visit her website for more info: www.wyldhealth.co.uk

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