Understanding Dietary Proteins
What Is Protein?
Proteins are biomolecules made up of amino acids and play an important role in building muscles, tissues, hormones, and enzymes in the body.1,2 Of the common 20 amino acids, eight must be consumed in our diets for proper human growth, metabolism, and tissue repair and maintenance.
What Is the Recommended Protein Intake?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein in healthy individuals is 0.8 g of protein/kg of body weight.2 The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends a daily intake of 5.5 ounces of protein for a 2,000 kcal-diet.3 Protein subgroup weekly recommendations are as follows: 26 oz/week of meats, poultry, and eggs; 8 oz/week of seafood; 5 oz/week of nuts, seeds, and soy products.
What Are the Different Sources of Proteins?
Meats, Poultry, Eggs – The DGA recommends that meats and poultry should be consumed in lean forms (eg, chicken breast, ground turkey) and from fresh, frozen, or canned sources. Processed meats such as sausages, hams, hot dogs, and luncheon meats are not recommended as the primary source of protein.
Seafood – Fish and shellfish are rich sources of protein.3 Seafoods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy polyunsaturated fat, but low in methylmercury include salmon, sardines, trout, anchovies, and Pacific oysters. Crab, shrimp, and tilapia are also lower in methylmercury.
Nuts, Seeds, and Soy Products – Consuming plant proteins from beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and soy products (eg, tofu) can yield a healthy dietary pattern.3 Replacing high-fat or processed meat with plant-based sources of protein can lower sodium and saturated fat consumption while allowing adequate protein intake.
Protein Intake & Diabetes?
Diet is one of the key lifestyle modifications individuals with diabetes can make; as such, the role of dietary protein has always been a topic of interest in diabetes management.4 Although more research is needed, recent evidence suggests that plant protein is more beneficial for diabetes management than animal protein.5–7 In an analysis of large prospective cohort studies, increased intake of animal protein (eg, red meat, processed meat, poultry, eggs) was directly associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). In contrast, increased intake of plant protein (eg, whole grains, nuts) was associated with a decreased risk of T2DM. Similarly, another large population-based, prospective, cohort study found that greater intake of animal protein, but not plant protein, was associated with increased risk of prediabetes, T2DM, and insulin resistance.6
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