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The Top 8 Things You may Not Know About Protein

You’ve seen protein powders, bars, shakes and even protein-enhanced chips, crackers, and cookies in abundance on grocery store shelves. Clearly, the demand is there. But with so many myths and misconceptions surrounding the macronutrient, it's often hard to know whether buying any of the enhanced products is truly necessary in order to add even more protein to your diet.

Undoubtedly eating protein in moderate amounts is vital to maintaining an optimal weight and a healthy lifestyle. Made up of 20 amino acids, protein is most commonly known for its ability to build and repair muscle. But there are many other truths and myths about protein you may not know:

  1. Protein, not just for muscle mass.
  • True. Protein also helps to make hormones and enzymes, in additional to being a key component of every cell in your body. And don’t forget adding protein to your meals will keep you full longer and boost your metabolism.
  1. Plant-based proteins don’t make the cut.
  • False. Animal-based proteins are a complete source of all essential amino acids. But, some plant-based proteins such as quinoa and buckwheat also provide the same. Or, pair incomplete proteins such as hummus and pita, or beans and rice, as an alternate way of adding complete proteins to your diet.
  1. Protein powders can take the place of whole foods.
  • Sometimes. Convenient, portable and full of flavor and versatility; protein powders have a permanent place in the marketplace. They should not be used, however, as an alternative to whole plant and animal sources of protein. The whole sources are not only less processed, but they will provide you with additional macro and micronutrients not found in commercial powders. Whole food protein sources should remain the staple in your diet.
  1. Protein intake has an impact on immunity.
  • True. Although not a cure-all or the sure-fire way to prevent an illness by any means, an adequate protein intake is necessary to give your body the tools it needs to fight back to incoming viruses and bacterial infections. In fact, the antibodies that fight infection are made up of protein. High protein foods often contain other micronutrients that boost immunity, such as magnesium found in almonds and zinc found in red meat.
  1. Focus only on protein and the rest will follow.
  • False. The keys to a healthy diet are balance, variety, and moderation. Focusing on one macronutrient alone will likely cause you to neglect other key nutrients. For example, by avoiding carbohydrate sources of whole grains, fruits and vegetables you may be lacking vitamin C, potassium and magnesium in your diet.
  1. Too much protein causes kidney damage.
  • Not necessarily. Excessive protein intake can cause further damage to people already diagnosed with kidney disease or damage. Long-term studies are still underway for the effects of high protein intake for people with healthy kidneys. Short term durations of high protein diets are generally unharmful.
  1. Not all protein is created equally.
  • True. Despite controversy over how much protein is truly enough to ingest, hopefully, the general consensus is that the type of food you consume as a protein source is important. Avoidance of processed meats such as sausages, deli meats, and hot dogs is best as they have been linked to colorectal cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  1. The more protein you eat, the more muscles you will have.
  • False. Protein intake may help with rebuilding and repairing muscles, but without exercise and the demand placed on the muscles to rebuild, the increased muscle mass will not happen. The average person needs anywhere from 10-35% of their calories coming from protein.

If a high protein lifestyle is for you, Evolution Nutrition has protein-focused meal plans and recipes to guide your day to day choices.