By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
On a mission to increase your protein intake? Join the club. The message that eating protein builds muscle and may help you lose weight has been heard loud and clear by Americans. Eating protein helps build and sustain muscle mass as you age, making you less susceptible to falls and fractures.
But adding to protein is not a risk-free proposition, in terms of your health. Protein is a calorie dense food, right behind fat as the most calorie dense food. That means that you cannot overindulge in protein without counting calories despite the popularity of high-protein diets. Protein also makes your kidneys work harder. That's not a trivial concern in a nation in which 9.3 % of us are diabetics, according to the Centers of Disease Control and 30% of Type 1 diabetics and 10% to 40% of Type 2 diabetics have kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Then, too, there is the issue of what eating meat protein , especially red meat protein, does to your heart. Red meat consumption ha been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. The amount of red meat you eat, particularly processed red meat, is one of the most predictive factors for your risk of developing the deadliest of cancers, pancreatic cancer.
For these reasons, many people seek alternatives to meat as protein sources. Many people know that fish is a wonderful alternative to red meat: less saturated fat; heart-friendly and, if you eat fish with omega-3 fatty acids, improvement of cognitive function.
But less well known is that vegetables can alo be a significant source of protein. Really? Which vegetables contain protein? Is the protein in vegetables better than the protein in meat?
What Are Your Daily Protein Needs?
The amount of protein you need depends on your body weight. You need 0.36 grams of protein per day for every pound you weigh. This means that a 120 pound woman needs 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of protein a day and a 180 pound man needs 64.8 grams (2.25 ounces) per day. These are the current US Dietary Guidelines.
If these numbers strike you as low, you are not alone. Other authorities recommend that we eat about 4 ounces of protein per meal. In all fairness, the US Dietary Guidelines are merely setting the absolute minimum protein level you should meet.
Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob contains 4 grams of protein per serving. Corn which has been taken off the cob contains the same amount, so long as it is real corn and not a corn product which has been processed.
Yellow corn, red corn and other forms of whole corn have about the same amount of protein.
A medium baked potato has about 3 grams of protein. By the way, a medium baked potato contains only about 100 calories.
Peanuts technically are a legume, which means they are as much a vegetable as beans. A single cup of peanuts contains 38 grams of protein.
A cup of pinto beans contains 41 grams of protein.
Edamame, cooked soybeans, contains 18 grams of protein per cup.
Lentils contain 18 grams of protein per cup.
Lima beans contain 14.6 gram of protein per cup.
Chick peas contain 12 grams of protein per cup.
Spinach contains 6 grams of protein per cup.
Broccoli contains 4 grams of protein per cup.
Brussel sprouts contain 4 grams of protein per cup.
White mushrooms contain 3 grams of protein per cup.
A medium artichoke contains 4.2 grams of protein.