Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Protein 1

Hamburgers, bacon and eggs, cold cuts, big juicy steaks, all are staples of the American diet.  People in the US are famous for consuming large portions of high protein food.  Perhaps this is why no doctor has ever asked me whether I was getting enough protein.  In junior high school gym class we were supposed to climb ropes.  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t do a single push-up either.  I tried to play tennis but the big, wooden rackets seemed too heavy.  Long fingernails were stylish in the 1950’s but mine always broke or peeled off in layers.  All of these were clues that I wasn’t getting enough protein but nobody paid much attention.

How much protein does an adult person need? Most sources I’ve looked at start at 40-50 grams per day.  Sometimes the recommendation is expressed as a ratio, .8 or .9 gram per kilo of body weight.  Men need more than women and people who work out regularly need more than sedentary types.  Protein deficiency can result in muscle weakness; if the body does not ingest enough protein it takes what it needs from the muscles.   A lack of protein can also lead to a weakened immune system.  Deficiency  can come about even when enough protein is being consumed if the body is not able to digest it properly.  (More on that in another post.)  Getting enough protein is essential for overall health but there is also some evidence that consuming more protein may reduce your risk of a heart attack, according to the web site of the Harvard School of Public Health.

When I was in my fifties I started really looking at the numbers on my annual blood work and noticing that the protein was low.  I thought about my current diet:  toast and fruit for breakfast, salad at lunch, meat and vegetables at dinner.  My rough estimate was that I was getting less than 30 grams per day, not nearly enough.  How to get more protein without eating more meat and adding too many calories and too much fat? A few years back I saw people on a TV fitness program drinking protein shakes.  These days I buy five-pound containers of chocolate whey protein at the gym.  (Soy protein is available too.) 

Chocolate Mint Protein Smoothie            makes 2 2-cup servings

¾ cup of low fat milk
2 tbsp. low fat yogurt
11/3 cups of ice cubes
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
2 small peppermint patties

Blend all ingredients until thick and creamy.

Fruit Protein Smoothie

Same as above but use vanilla protein powder, add two cups frozen fruit, ½ banana, and omit the peppermint patties.

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