All About Protein: Here's What You Need to Know

What it protein?

Proteins are made of amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, your body can make 11 but must consume the other 9 “essential amino acids” from the diet. Protein is not usually used for energy, except in the event of inadequate consumption of carbohydrates and fats. It is, however, the primary component of most cells and is used in the maintenance and repair of tissues. It is necessary for the DNA in your cells to continue functioning and replicating properly. Errors in DNA copying from one dying cell to the next generation of functioning cells can eventually lead to cancer. While many factors play a role in why these errors might occur, adequate protein is needed for the raw materials of this DNA and for healthy cells.

Additional benefits

  • Plant based proteins - Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains and other plant proteins are rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are important for digestive, cognitive, cardiovascular and metabolic health among many other health benefits.

  • Animal proteins - Organic grass fed beef, free range organic chicken and eggs, organic pork and lamb, wild game and line-caught quality fish are rich in iron, zinc, vitamin E, B-vitamins and have more omega-3’s than their feedlot, altered diet counterparts.

Our take on protein

  • It's a must! Essential for building muscle mass and maintaining muscles. Necessary as we do strength training and as we age to hold on to muscle.

  • The body has to work to break it down - do not forget that. That is extra work on the kidneys. More is not better! Protein is not meant to be eaten in excess, but in balance.

  • Protein helps with satiation - use protein to keep you full and satisfied. Notice in quick snacks or meals if protein is present as that may help you from getting hungry shortly after eating.

  • Plant based proteins are full of health benefits and are much more environmentally friendly than poultry and beef. However, they come from plants and therefore also contain carbohydrates (i.e. fiber). That is excellent! But does need to be taken into consideration when eating whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds and balancing your meals and snacks.

Avoid & optimize

  • Avoid/limit - high fat and cured meats, breaded and fried foods, refined protein powders and bars

  • Optimize - lean and grass-fed meats, free range poultry, sustainable fish and seafood, organic nuts & seeds, beans & legumes and whole grains

Pro tips

We recommend including a protein source at each meal and snack.

Mix it up:

  • Omnivores - choose a variety of plant proteins sometimes, sea and land animal proteins other times so that you’re getting a variety of other vitamins and minerals along with your protein.

  • Vegetarians/vegans - still aim for variety as different plant foods will give you different nutrients throughout your day and week.

Protein pairings make for better nutrition, flavor and texture profiles. Examples:

  • Ground turkey + black beans in tacos

  • Chilled, grilled salmon + herbed quinoa on a salad

  • Lentil/vegetable soup + whole grain toast w/ tahini for dinner

  • Crunchy roasted chickpeas + pistachios for a snack

  • Shrimp + tofu in a poke bowl

Spice it up! Rather than added salt or fat, try these with your proteins:

  • Squeeze of lemon or lime, or a dash of vinegar for tang.

  • If you like a spicy kick and don’t have reflux, add fresh or dried peppers.

  • Use all herbs and spices liberally - they pack a flavorful punch, are powerful antioxidants and very anti-inflammatory! Garlic, ginger, turmeric, dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cayenne, cumin, curry blends, chives, mint, cilantro, pepper, parsley, saffron, tamarind - sky’s the limit!

Also, if you’re craving red meat but are trying to cut back, add more mushrooms and less meat to your plate. The umami flavor and “meaty” texture is very satiating. Bonus - fungi also support a healthy immune system.