If you didn’t skip The Basic Science section of Fat is Not the Enemy, you’ll recall that protein is one of the three macro-nutrients that are essential to our health. No one can offer a definitive number for how much protein we need in a day, but a rough estimate is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. It’s not unusual for people to exceed that intake, though, and because protein is associated with meat and muscle mass, men regularly O.D. on it.
Recent diet fads haven’t helped matters any, by pushing protein-centered regimens for weight-loss. As with the low/no-fat boom, the food industry has latched onto the protein movement with similar enthusiasm. As people hear more about protein in the media, they consciously or unconsciously look for products that advertise their protein content, in the same way that a lot more stuff now has some referent of “natural” on its packaging.
One big concern with the media hype surrounding protein is not only that people are getting too much of it, but because of its form. A recent article highlights the evolution of protein powders and how, by the 1990s, despite the utter lack of evidence to support claims that using protein powder supplements did not increase muscle bulk, it’s now a $10.5 billion dollar money-maker.
The biggest issue is that people are turning to derived proteins in the form of powders and bars, instead of the “real” food they were eating, which supplies additional nutrients. As a vegan exclusively eating a plant-based diet, I have no problem getting enough protein.This is even better news since a recent medical study found that plants offer a much better source of protein than animals, which is more likely to shorter a person’s lifespan.
But if you’re a meat-eater, don’t fret! The study also found that getting meat–especially red meat–out of your diet can help to undo some of the damage that’s already been done, especially if you’re a smoker, need to lose weight, regularly drink alcohol, or lead a sedentary lifestyle.