Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Team Protein

Protein … seems easy enough … meat, fish, nuts, eggs, beans!  Have a little at each meal and you’re good to go, right?  Basically, yes … but who know there was so much more to that little muscle builder.

For instance, I did not know that there are “complete proteins” and “incomplete proteins”.  Now that sounds really confusing.  Protein is a “macromolecule” made up of 20 different amino acids.  Amino acids are compounds that aid in controlling hunger; building muscle and providing fuel for the body.   Amino acids are also the basis for tendons, ligaments, collagen (skin) and hair.  The busy little devils are necessary for healthy hormone production, correct fluid balance and the transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout the body.  Amino acids can be divided into three categories: essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids and conditional amino acids. Nine of the acids are essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied by food. Eleven of the acids are non-essential meaning our body produces them. Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness, stress or for someone challenged with a lifelong medical condition.

“Complete Proteins” come from animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs as well as soy beans and quinoa and contain all nine of the essential amino acids.

As the name suggests “Incomplete Proteins” fall short of providing everything your body requires when you eat protein.  Incomplete proteins include nuts, seeds and grains. 

Having a perfect meal would mean you would eat a complete protein each time, but that’s not only not always possible.  If you have an incomplete protein in one meal you should strive to have a complete protein at your next meal.  When you choose protein rich foods pay attention to what comes along with the protein.  Vegetable sources of protein, although considered incomplete do offer healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals. 

But, how much protein do you need to eat.  The average female, active less then 30 minutes per day needs approximately 5 - 6 ounces of protein per day, the number rising to approximately 7 - 8 ounces per day for the average male active less that 30 minutes daily.

Hurrrumph … that sure doesn’t sound like a lot of protein to spread out over 3 meals.  Guess that quarter chicken with a side salad, even if the chicken is broiled, goes off the chart!

What counts as an ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group?

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.

The chart lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group towards your daily recommended intake:

Amount that counts as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group
Common portions and ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked lean beef

1 small steak (eye of round, filet) = 3½ to 4 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked lean pork or ham

1 small lean hamburger = 

2 to 3 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked chicken or turkey, 

without skin

1 small chicken breast half = 

3 ounce equivalents

1 sandwich slice of turkey 

(4 ½ x 2 ½ x 1/8”)

½ Cornish game hen = 

4 ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked fish or shell fish

1 can of tuna, drained = 

3 to 4 ounce equivalents
1 salmon steak = 
4 to 6 ounce equivalents
1 small trout = 3 ounce equivalents

1 egg

3 egg whites = 2 ounce equivalents

3 egg yolks = 1 ounce equivalent
Nuts and seeds

½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves) 

½ ounce of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or squash seeds, hulled, roasted) 
1 Tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter

1 ounce of nuts or seeds = 

2 ounce equivalents

¼ cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto, or white beans) 

¼ cup of cooked peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
¼ cup of baked beans, refried beans

1 cup split pea soup = 

2 ounce equivalents
1 cup lentil soup = 
2 ounce equivalents
1 cup bean soup = 
2 ounce equivalents

¼ cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu

1 oz. tempeh, cooked
¼ cup roasted soybeans 1 falafel patty 
(2 ¼”, 4 oz)
2 Tablespoons hummus

1 soy or bean burger patty = 

2 ounce equivalents

Charts can certainly simplify things but I don’t usually walk around with a nutrition chart and a food scale tucked into my purse or pocket.  Even if I did, I think wait staff, family and friends would be hard pressed to hide a snicker if I pulled out a food scale in a restaurant.  People who have been dieting for weight loss or simply measuring to eat properly often become complacent when it comes to portion sizes feeling pretty secure in “eyeballing” portions.  That works for a little while but over time those "eyeballed” portions inevitably get bigger and bigger and bigger.  Besides fussing with numbers creates anxiety which leads to confusion.  Eating healthy starts to feel just a little too complicated and that makes people give up.

An easy way of checking to make sure that you are getting a correct “serving” is to simply open up your hand.  The palm of your hand is an excellent measurement for protein.  Your serving should be approximately the size and thickness of your palm.  No excuses now … you always have the palm of your hand with you! 

So now we know why protein is so important and how much protein to have, but how does this all play into a successful weight loss program? 

Including protein in meals promotes the feeling of fullness, satisfies hunger and reduces the need for extra, unnecessary calories.  Foods that are naturally high in protein also have a low glycaemic index which means that have little effect on blood-glucose and insulin levels.  Stable blood glucose will help balance energy levels reducing the spikes and lows causing cravings and bingeing often the result of other food choices.

Vegetarians must be especially careful when making food choices to prevent low protein intake because animal products contain the highest amounts of complete proteins.  Soybean and quinoa are considered complete proteins because they contain all nine essential amino acids but other protein sources such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds and rice are incomplete proteins.  To be most effective plant sources need to be combined.  Mix rice with legumes and seeds for example to provide all the essential amino acids.

So protein sounds like a pretty good food choice to make when you are trying to lose weight BUT as with all good things … too much of a good thing exists as well.  Protein only diets are unbalanced and lacking in vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients.  High protein diets can help with short term, fast weight loss but not recommended in the long run.  In fact too much protein can have the opposite effect.  Excess protein is stored by the body as fat, not as protein.  The body is a pretty good hoarder.  It likes to store things that it cannot use immediately for possible future use.  Diets high in protein and deficient in other sources of nutrition (such as some of the “shake” diets available) can encourage the consumption of foods high in saturated fat, which may increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  Lack of fibre can cause constipation, bowel disorders and certain types of cancer.  Not having a balanced diet can put unnecessary strain on the kidneys and liver and prompt excessive loss of calcium, which may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

It’s important to combine sensible portions of good quality lean protein with recommended portions grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and fats.  As always it’s all about balance.

At www.webmd.com - “protein can help you shed those unwanted and keep your belly full.  But it’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get the health benefits”.  Good proteins include:

Seafood is an excellent source of protein because it’s usually low in fat.  Fish such as salmon is a little higher in fat, but it is the heart-healthy kind: omega-3 fatty acids.

White-Meat Poultry – stick to the white meat of poultry for excellent, lean protein.  Dark meat is a little higher in fat.  The skin is loaded with saturated fat, so remove skin before cooking.

Milk, Cheese and Yogurt – dairy foods are excellent sources of protein but they also contain valuable calcium and many are fortified with vitamin D.  Choose skim or low fat dairy to keep bones and teeth strong and prevent osteoporosis.

Eggs are one of the least expensive forms of protein.  The American Heart Association says normal healthy adults can safely enjoy an egg a day.

Beans – one-half cup of beans contains as much protein as an ounce of broiled steak.  Plus, these nutritious nuggets are loaded with fibre to keep you feeling full for hours.

Pork Tenderloin is a great and versatile white meat and is 31% leaner than it was 20 years ago.

Soy – 5 grams of soy protein daily can help lower cholesterol about 3%.  Eating soy protein instead of a protein higher in fat – along with a healthy diet – can be heart healthy.

Lean Beef has only one more gram of saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast.  Lean beef is also an excellent source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

Protein at breakfast – research shows that including a source of protein such as an egg or Greek yogurt at breakfast along with a high fibre grain like whole wheat toast can help you feel full longer and eat less throughout the day.

Self.com offered some interesting, versatile and easy protein meal suggestions, so I am going to take the liberty of sharing them here.  At www.self.com both a meat eaters and a vegetarian choice were offered.  And really, does it have to be one or the other?  Try a vegetarian option once in a while … just for fun!

Meat Eaters Breakfast
In a small pan sauté 1 egg in 1 tsp olive oil, with 1 cup spinach.  Top 1 whole wheat English muffin with egg and spinach mixture, 1 slice of turkey bacon, and 1 slice (1 ounce) of low fat Swiss cheese.  (362 calories, 25 g of protein)

                                                            Veggie Breakfast
Cook ¼ cup rolled oats as directed on package in ½ skim milk.  Top with 1/3 cup blueberries, 2 tablespoons sliced almonds.  Serve with 1 hard boiled egg.  (374 calories, 20 g  protein)

Meat Eaters Lunch
Make a sandwich: 1 tsp Dijon mustard; 2 oz lean roast beef; 1/8 avocado, sliced; 1 slice tomato; 1/4 cup spinach on 2 slices whole-wheat bread. Serve with 2 medium carrots, 1/4 cup hummus. (474 calories, 27 g protein)

Veggie Lunch
Make a salad: 2 cups baby spinach, 1/2 cup white beans, 1/2 cup grape halves, 2 tbsp chopped walnuts, 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese, 1 1/2 tbsp vinaigrette. Serve with 1 whole-wheat roll. (502 calories, 21 g protein)

Meat Eaters Dinner
Heat broiler. In a bowl, combine 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; brush over a 3-oz boneless, skinless salmon fillet. Broil fish until flaky, 4 minutes. In a small pan, sauté 1 cup broccoli rabe in 1 tsp olive oil; spoon over 3/4 cup cooked brown rice tossed with 2 tbsp grated Parmesan, 1 tsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. (500 calories, 30 g protein)

Veggie Dinner
In a large pan, stir-fry 1/2 cup each sliced mushrooms and shredded cabbage, and 1/3 cup each sliced carrots, red bell pepper and green bell pepper in 2 tsp peanut oil, 1/4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce, 5 minutes. Add 3 oz diced firm tofu, 1/4 cup black beans, 2 tbsp chopped peanuts; cook 3 minutes. Spoon over 3/4 cup cooked brown rice. Serve with salad: 1 cup lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers, 2 tbsp carrot-ginger dressing. (621 calories, 23 g protein)

Enjoy your protein!
TOPS weigh in last night went really well.
Almost everyone weighed in with a lost including me ... down 1 pound.

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