We all know that protein sources are necessary for our growth and to repair and produce new cells
Protein makes up most of the tissues and it is involved in all the biological processes of the body. Its energy supply is also fundamental in the diet of any athlete.
Knowing the different protein sources and their properties in depth is a good way to ensure a good supply and an adequate nutrition.
Moreover, it is also important to acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages of each source in order to choose correctly.
These are the 9 most popular sources of protein:
1. Egg Protein
Egg is one of the best sources of protein, since it has the right proportions of all the essential amino acids. An egg provides 75 calories and 7g of protein. In addition, it is a good source of vitamins A, B2, D, E, iron and calcium.
Even though the yolk contains fat -around 5g-, most of them are unsaturated or monounsaturated (3.2g of the 5g). As we already know, these are good for the body. Moreover, the yolk contains biotin, which helps to keep the hair, nails and skin healthy. Moreover, the egg yolk provides around 100 or 200mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve our heart health.
Many health professionals tend to avoid egg due to its high high cholesterol content (around 210mg per serving). However, the truth is that its connection to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases has yet to be proven. In fact, what we do know is that eggs can help to improve the intake of choline, a fundamental component for our brain health.
Legumes are a good source of protein. For example, a cup of lentils has up to 18g of protein while a cup of adzuki beans can provide up to 25g of protein. In addition, legumes are rich in complex carbohydrates and low in fat, providing a significant amount of iron and fiber.
Legumes contain vegetable sterols that help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol and lower the LDL cholesterol.
A higher intake of legumes is connected to a better glycemic control and a lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This is due to the fact that they contain slow digestion carbohydrates and a high fiber content.
Another outstanding benefit of eating legumes regularly is that they can protect against stomach and prostate cancer.
One of the biggest disadvantages of eating legumes, kidneys beans, beans, lentils or chickpeas, is that they produce gases or stomach swelling. Above all, this is due to the fact that they contain hard to digest sugar. However, let’s nor forget that these problems can also be caused by other factors.
On the other hand, we know that legumes are not a complete protein. In other words, they do not contain all the essential amino acids. However, we can still combine them with other products like cereals, rice, potatoes or nuts to counter this.
Like egg, fish has all the essential amino acids. But apart from providing high quality protein, it has nutritional properties that make of it a fundamental product for our health.
Another feature of this group is that the fat content of fatty fish is superior to other fish like swai or hake. Eating fish three times a week (mainly tuna, salmon, sardines or trout) helps to protect the heart and joints. This is due to the fact that they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Currently, fish and seafood can contain mercury. This is the result of environmental contamination that falls on rivers and the sea as acid rain. Then, the fish ingest the mercury when they eat. We need to be aware of this, otherwise, we run the risk of accumulating toxic amounts of mercury.
Some of the most contaminated fish are sword fish, shark, mackerel and swai. On the other hand, the less contaminated ones are canned tuna, salmon, wels catfish, pollack. In order to assess the risks and advantages of eating fish and seafood, we need to take into account the age and stage of life of a person. For example, pregnant or lactating women should avoid this type of fish.
3. Red Meat
Read meat is a source of high quality protein. However, people criticize or avoid it due to its high fat content.
Moreover, lean meat is quite rich in iron, manganese, iodine and vitamins A and B. That is why it is important to restore the reputation of meat and select their intake properly.
The issue of this group is that many people tend to associate it with other products like sausages. That is why many studies have determined that red meat can increase the cardiovascular risk, specially if they are high in fat. An excessive intake of this type of products increases the mortality due to cardiovascular diseases or related pathologies, such as breast or colon cancer.
4. White Meat
The protein from white meat, like the one from chicken or turkey, are ideal to gain more muscle mass. In fact, white meat provides a lot of protein but with less saturated fat than red meat. Moreover, they also provide complex B vitamins, iron and phosphorus.
Currently, the experts suggest controlling the amount of chicken that we eat. It is believed that it comes with a great amount of hormones which are used to speed up the growth of the animal. So, in theory, an excessive intake can cause a hormone maladjustment that can trigger different diseases.
Soy protein is a complete vegetable protein and its quality rivals that of the protein from red and white meat. Apart from its protein supply, it also provides a lot of potassium, zinc, iron, vitamin E and phosphorus.
Another benefit of soy is its relation to a lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Therefore, it improves the circulatory system, preventing hypertension and some coronary diseases.
Moreover, it is specially advised for those who suffer diabetes.
It also improves the digestion and prevent several types of cancer that affect the digestive apparatus.
Like wheat, most of the soy we eat has been highly processed. In fact, it undergoes so many chemical processes that it has lost part of its original properties.
Taking soy can affect the thyroid gland, because it is a goitrogen that can cause thyroid disorders.
Despite being a complete protein, it lacks a good dose of two essential amino acids. So, although it contains every single one, it does not have the necessary amounts. This can be easily solved by combining it with other vegetables.
6. Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products like yogurt are excellent sources of complete protein. Moreover, they also provide calcium for the bones, as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B12.
Apart from their benefits for our digestive health, dairy products are associated with a lower risk of bones fractures.
The recommended daily allowance is from 2 to 3 portions of milk or thereof. A glass of milk or yogurt provides between 7 and 8g of protein. Taking the recommended dose of dairy will meet the protein requirements while providing vitamin D.
Current milk is very different to the one people used decades ago. This is due to the fact that the state of the animals has gotten worse (free cattle high in omega 3 vs cereal fodder). This results in a worse quality of the milk with a lower omega 3 content.
Those who suffer a food intolerance may experience irritation in the digestive system after drinking milk. In fact, a great part of the population can suffer an abdominal colic, leaky gut syndrome, ulcers, food intolerances or a hormone imbalance that can trigger serious pathologies.
The protein from quinoa contains all the essential amino acids, which is why it has a high biological value. Actually, a cup of boiled quinoa provides 8g of protein, twice as much as barley.
Moreover, it provides many important nutrients like vitamin E, folic acid, phosphorus and iron. Another property of quinoa is the fact that it is gluten-free and suitable for those who suffer celiac disease. This complete vegetable protein is an excellent choice for those who do not eat animal products.
It is difficult to find disadvantages to this super food. In some cases, quinoa can be harmful for our health because it contains lectins. These are a group of proteins that is difficult to digest and which can sometimes irritate the gut.
On the other hand, quinoa also contains saponins, which can cause gut inflammation sometimes. Washing the quinoa before cooking can eliminate part of the saponins, although not completely.
Tofu is a basic product in Eastern cultures. This is due to its different benefits for our health and its important nutrient supply. They are rich in good quality vegetable protein. It comes from soy, which means that it is completely natural since we do not need preservatives or color additives for its production.
Tofu has more calcium that meat, it is easier to digest than dairy or eggs and it barely provides calories. Although it provides less iron than meat, it does not have cholesterol, gluten or lactose.
Since it comes from soy, we could say that tofu has the same disadvantages as soy. Then, it contains phytoestrogens, which are quite controversial. Some believe that they are good for women with an estrogen deficiency. Others believe they are harmful because they cause hormone alterations in the body. A moderate intake is key for this food in particular.
They are commonly used by athletes after the workout. Protein shakes are supplements mainly made of soy, milk and egg.
The protein percentage will change depending on the brand and product composition. Some contain up to a 90% of protein, while others also include carbs and fat. Above all, it is important to pick the one that suits the specific needs of each athlete.
Usually, they are available in different flavors and formats, either powder or ready-to-drink.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that protein supplements cannot replace food and an excessive intake can be harmful. Therefore, we suggest following a healthy and balanced diet and consult a specialist if you want to start taking supplementation.
There are many types of protein shakes on sale in the market. This makes it more difficult to make general statements about disadvantages. In fact, this will mainly depend on the manufacturing and the people that are going to use them. You need to be careful with the side effects of each protein type and try others until you find the best one for you.
How to take the main sources of protein?
The best way to ensure the daily protein intake is following a complete and balanced diet.
You can use supplements after intense workouts or in specific cases. However, it would be ideal to combine them with a good diet and with the previous advice from a specialist.