SUMMER SCIENCE FRIDAY: PROTEIN FOOD CATEGORIES: GENERALLY, NUTRITION ARTICLES THAT DISCUSS FOODS TO EAT BECAUSE they are a source of high quality protein lump them all together. Or split them into dairy, plant-based, or meat and fish categories.
Karla Walsh sorts them a bit differently in her article for SHAPE.com, “The Ultimate List of High Protein Foods You Should Eat Every Week”, by MACRONUTRIENT content. And indicates your intake should represent a mix of these items over a 7-day period of time. Some readers might find her perspective helpful in planning nutritious meals and snacks.
Food macronutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, and fat (and water, some say) which allow for proper body functioning, needed in larger amounts (measured in grams). Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals needed in small or trace amounts (measured in milligram quantities).
Walsh provides reasons why foods in each category can be beneficial if included in a mix of protein sources. And although she references the Recommended Daily Allowance value of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight quoted by the expert, she also suggests this value may be too low. Athletes who are strength training may require up to 2-3 grams protein per kilogram of body weight, says an International Society of Sport Nutrition position paper ('stand') on protein and exercise published in June 2017.
Below is a quick summary of high-protein food categories explained in the article, which includes links to recipes.
High-protein, high fat: full fat Greek yogurt, nuts
High-protein, high carbohydrate (CHO): bean foods
High Protein, low CHO: eggs, wild-caught salmon + other fish
High protein, low fat: chicken breast, quinoa + other plant –based foods
Although Walsh lists low fat/fat free milk as a ‘low carb’ food, some might argue it has more grams of carbohydrate (12 grams CHO/cup). than other high protein foods. Still, it is lower in CHO than other foods and unless the purpose of a diet is near total elimination of CHO this amount is clearly healthy for those who tolerate dairy.
Nuts also contain CHO, roughly about as many grams of CHO as grams of protein per weight, an amount within reason for a low (not zero-carbohydrate) diet. Endurance athletes may find performance suffers when CHO are too severely limited.
I appreciate Karla Walsh’s breakdown because I tend to focus on eating high protein foods throughout the day while avoiding the high-fat and high-CHO groups to keep calorie levels lower. But that is a mistake.
Above all, it's a boring way to live. Also, the lower satiety value of these foods can lead to hunger bingeing, a situation in which careful dietary planning is abandoned when pent up cravings lead to loss of control. This I know from experience as many others might too. Best to loosen up and allow enjoyment of a variety of high protein sources without rigid restrictions, in moderation.
By taking in a sufficient amount of protein-dense food and broadening the range of sources, our macronutrient protein needs will be met, which Walsh encourages, will also help lower body weight and blood pressure, increase lean body mass, and maintain safe waist-to-hip measurements. At the same time the 2 other macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates, will be partly supplied, along with some essential micronutrients, with all coming from healthy fare.
Just as we are instructed to eat a 'rainbow' of different colored fruits and vegetables in our diets, perhaps applying that 'color rule' to the selection of high protein foods may a be an easy path to building and maintaining our lean muscle mass too. Brown nuts, beige tuna and chicken, red salmon and meat, varied-color pulses (the dried edible seeds of legumes, including lentils, peas, beans), and white dairy (full fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese). Thinking of these foods in terms their fat and CHO content, as Walsh suggests, may assist with the dietary mixing and matching.
Fruits and vegetables seem to receive a lot of media attention because of their micronutrient, antioxidant, and phytochemical content, and because they often are lacking in modern diets. But it's high quality protein that helps our bodies build lean muscle mass.
Macronutrient colors matter too!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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