Losing Weight Does Not Mean Giving up Protein

The warning signs of metabolic distress are easy to spot during an annual checkup: high blood pressure, too much bad cholesterol, a big waistline, and a tendency toward diabetes.

Physicians know those traits all add up to metabolic syndrome, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. And as the numbers of those with the syndrome go up, there is concern the current decline in the rate of coronary heart disease could stop.

A typical strategy to combat metabolic syndrome includes not only exercise but also diets with lean proteins such as chicken and fish.

Warning Signs of Metabolic Syndrome

Doctors can typically spot the following warning signs of metabolic syndrome during an annual checkup:

  • Waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
  • Elevated levels of a common fat, serum triglyceride.
  • Low levels of the “good” cholesterol, often abbreviated as HDL.
  • A systolic blood pressure of 130 and a diastolic of 85, or higher.
  • Glucose levels of at least 110 mg/dL.

Protein Is Essential in Any Diet

Often just losing a few pounds, and keeping them off, can make a dramatic difference. Moderate exercise and a healthy diet are often the first steps.

For example, triglyceride levels can improve with a diet emphasizing protein. A protein-rich diet may include lean cuts of meat and unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil.

Foods high in carbohydrates, however, often have the opposite result.

So at dinner, choose grilled (instead of fried) chicken or fish, and try to avoid potatoes, pastas, and bread.

Animal protein is not the only option – beans, nuts, and some vegetables, such as spinach, also provide protein.

Not All Protein Is the Same

Your body’s engine needs protein to run properly, but not all proteins provide the same benefits.

Protein provides essential amino acids, and nothing offers a more complete package than animal protein. But too much of the wrong kind of meat might hurt as much as it helps.

Meanwhile, diets heavy with fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts can provide protein, but these foods typically lack one or more of the essential amino acids.

This is the reason vegetarians must be careful to eat the right mix of protein-rich foods to make sure they complete the protein package the body needs.

For non-vegetarians, however, it’s also important to pay attention to portions and protein sources. For example, a 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak provides about 40 grams worth of protein. However, it also packs in 38 grams of fat, 14 of which are saturated fat. A single steak becomes a whopping 60 percent of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat.

Meanwhile, the same amount of salmon provides 34 grams of protein, but only 18 grams of fat, only 4 grams of which are saturated. A cup of cooked lentils produces 18 grams of protein but less than 1 gram of fat.

A healthy diet should focus on striking the right protein balance, giving the body enough of the nutrients and limiting the intake of bad fats.

Source: The Harvard School of Public Health—The Nutrition Source

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