Unlike vitamins and minerals, most people in North America actually eat more protein than recommended (American Dietetic Association recommends 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight – so that’s about 55-75g of protein a day for most adults). So if people are getting enough, why am I talking about it? There’s a trick with protein: source and distribution.
Most of us eat most of our protein later in the day (at dinner time). If we redistribute protein intake throughout the day (say 20g of protein at each meal) we can better control our weight, maintain muscle mass, maintain energy and blood sugar levels and prevent sugar cravings. So for many of us, this means, redistributing protein to breakfast and lunch. How do we do this?
All animal proteins are “complete” (meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids). However, higher animal protein intake has been associated with higher diabetes risk. So the key to increasing protein is to add a variety of plant-based protein sources (which are NOT associated with diabetes risk). (Combining grains with beans or legumes allows us to get complete protein sources.) Whole grains, nuts and seeds come with lots of protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. A 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds will instantly add 14g of protein to your morning oatmeal. How about just substituting the butter on your toast with a nut butter (like almond, peanut or cashew)? This substitution alone will cut the increase in blood sugar by half!
Other sources of protein that come with additional benefits: salmon and sardines contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils; low-fat yogurt is a significant source of protein plus it comes with probiotics; try some good quality organ meats as well! They’re packed with vitamins and minerals that are hard to get elsewhere.
Try to avoid processed sources of protein such as cured ham and deli meats. Also any foods high in salt and chemicals (like nitrates) as these can increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Remember: protein recommendations vary with the individual’s physical activity level and kidney health; consult your naturopathic physician or dietitian to determine optimum protein amounts and protein sources.