3 ways a protein-rich diet can enrich your life

If you ask any dietician, you’ll hear the same thing: Protein is vital to your health. After all, every cell in our body needs it, and so consuming enough is important to prolong their lifespan and encourage them to reproduce — a process that slows down as we age.

In fact, the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements reports that the average sedentary adult should be getting 10 percent to 35 percent of their calories from protein. However, older adults need more than average to combat the hazards of aging, so it’s best to consume more to be on the safe side. And, as we will discuss below, adequate amounts in your diet can help boost your health in other ways, too.

It helps your body function better longer

Dr. Geralyn Frandsen points out in a Prevention Magazine article that stronger muscles associated with more protein mean more support for your bones and lower chances of falls and fractures — one of the most common injuries among seniors. That’s because it helps support bone health by boosting the lean muscle mass that we lose with age. Loss of lean muscle mass can weaken bones and leads to the fragility so often associated with aging.

Dr. Frandsen is a professor and assistant director at Maryville University’s doctor of nursing program, which covers everything from pediatrics to gerontology. Her training and experience allow her to trace health and nutrition requirements across different age groups. Protein for adequate muscle mass and to support bone health is helpful at younger ages as well. The process of sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, begins around the age of 30.

In line with these comments, it’s a good idea to incorporate more into your diet, even with simple foods like avocado and peanut butter.

It helps you recover from illness and injury

Cell turnover, bone fragility, and muscle loss all become more prevalent as you age, meaning you’ll be more prone to illnesses and injuries, as well. Thankfully, protein can help your body repair itself faster.

This is because your body processes protein less efficiently when it’s under severe amounts of stress, such as that brought on by injuries. So, in many cases, simply increasing your intake can go a long way towards helping prevent your bones and muscles from breaking down while you’re unwell.

However, take note that high intake is not recommended for those undergoing dialysis. In fact, protein-rich diets for dialysis patients can lead to (and even further aggravate) chronic kidney disease. So, if you’re unsure of what to do, consult your doctor first before making any major dietary changes.

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Protein lowers your risk of developing comorbidities

Protein can go further by preventing you from getting sick in the first place. Studies have long shown that this nutrient may lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

“Protein intake may play a role in the long-term prevention of [high blood pressure (HBP)],” Lynn Moore, corresponding author and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, explained. By consuming at least 100g of protein a day, you lower your risk of developing HBP by over 40 percent, improving your overall heart health.

Moreover, protein can also help with weight control, preventing obesity. However, when choosing protein from meat sources, be sure to avoid or eat less of those higher in saturated fats which can be harmful to heart health and lead to weight gain.

When to forego supplementing protein

As much as possible, it’s best to get your protein from whole food, so try varying your meals with white meat, a little red meat and seafood. However, as previously discussed here on Easy Health Options, protein-rich vegetables like lentils and soybeans can serve as healthy and effective protein sources. Other great plant sources of protein include beans, hummus, peas, soy nuts, tofu and tempeh.

With supplements like protein shakes, though, it’s easy to consume too much of the nutrient by mistake. This can cause intestinal distress and even strain your kidneys and liver. That’s why supplementing should only be necessary if you’re experiencing decreased appetite or can’t consume solid food.

On the whole, however, the National Cancer Institute has found that protein-rich diets can help you live longer. So feel free to include it as part of a well-balanced diet and eat to your heart’s content — while living your life to the fullest!

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Tina Stellar

By Tina Stellar

Tina Stellar became interested in health and wellness subjects while working as a health center receptionist, and seeing firsthand the effects of lifestyle on health. She enjoys researching and writing on topics that can help people live better.