February is all things heart health. One factor associated with heart health that many American’s silently struggle with is protein intake. While many Americans consume more than the required amount of protein, we are also overconsuming saturated fats. Saturated fats raise our LDL (bad cholesterol).
But what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our liver makes. The liver produces enough cholesterol for our body. Our body begins to struggle when we overconsume bad cholesterol foods such as meats and processed foods. This over build up causes hard deposits in our arteries which make the artery less flexible. If our body releases a clot causing a blockage, a heart attack or stroke will typically occur. (American Heart Association, 2020).
If Americans consumed adequate fruit and vegetables, it is theorized that we would not consume so much protein. Adequate protein is 46 grams of protein for adult women and 56 grams for adult men (AHA, 2017). This protein is easily moderated when we use low fat or lean protein, including milk, yogurts, and beans.
Protein is needed in the body for growth and repair, which is also why it is important to choose smart proteins as it relates to your health. Proteins also contains many amino acids that our body requires, and some can only be found in food (essential amino acids). Many protein foods assist in lowering bad cholesterol. These foods include nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. While some contain minimal levels of protein, others can help pack that extra punch when needed.
It is important to choose a variety of healthy protein sources as different foods bring different levels of nutrients. Many foods will also bring the same amount of protein but at a more economical rate, such as beans. Meats are a great source of protein and can be more healthful by removing the skin and trimming excess fats. While fish can be expensive, these are an excellent choice for lean protein. Eggs are a great source of protein and contain many other vitamins and nutrients. Greek yogurt is a great breakfast option with a high protein value and has shown to lower bad cholesterol levels.
When exploring diets, ensure that you are communicating with your physician or dietician to find the level and foods that best suit your health.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture