Buttonwood Business Center January 2024

Attune Nutrition

Nutrition News to Help You Be Well and Live Well

Tracking the nutrition trends for 2024, protein promises to be in the spotlight once again.  Dietitians in the know predict that plant proteins will be big as the “powers that be” continue to steer us away from consuming meats for reasons of supposed sustainability.  However, dietitians are predicting that ultra-processed meat substitutes may begin to fall out of favor in exchange for whole food sources of plant-based proteins.  Still, the food industry will continue to push for more “sustainable” sources of protein, and insects  have already been introduced into the food supply in Europe; will they be making their way to the United States next?  Read on as we discuss more about these issues regarding protein food sources so you can make informed choices in the year ahead.

In good health,

Sally Stegemann MS, RD, LD

registereddietitian@buttonwoodbusinesscenter.com

Protein Power

By Sally Stegemann, MS, RD, LD

        Protein is an essential macronutrient that receives much attention in the world of nutrition due to its role in the body of growth, healing, biochemical reactions, gene expression, maintenance of muscle tissue and more.  Dietary protein has been recognized for its role in hunger satiation, thereby making it a nutrition focal point in weight management plans.  From Atkins diets to protein shake diets, this macronutrient is no stranger to the spotlight.  However, there’s no need to go to extremes when it comes to protein intake.  Most Americans don’t lack protein in their diets overall; it’s more likely that the quality and the regularity or pattern of intake might be lacking.  Meats, eggs and dairy foods are considered to be “complete” sources of protein because they provide all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body.  Plant proteins such as beans, legumes and nuts generally do not supply all essential amino acids on their own, however, simply eating a variety of foods will ensure that the needed amino acids are supplied.  

There are arguments that can be made for or against both animal or plant proteins.  For example, animal proteins naturally provide heme iron (a form of iron that is more absorbable than iron found in plants) and vitamin B12 which is not produced by plants.  Vitamin B12 must be added to plant proteins usually in the synthetic form cyanocobalamin, which is a man-made form of the vitamin containing a cyanide molecule (yes, you read that correctly!)  Plant proteins are higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat.  This is a popular reason for switching to plant proteins, and food marketers pounce on that opportunity.  You will see labels of products like Beyond Meat, for example, touting labels that proclaim “35% less saturated fat” than beef.  However, at nearly 400 mg of sodium in their hamburger alternative patties, the trade-off may not be worth it.  Ultimately, it just comes down to personal choice and dietary needs.  At 7 grams of protein per ounce, animal proteins might make more sense for a person who struggles to eat the quantity of food required to meet their protein needs.  To give a quick example, a 160 pound individual needs approximately 72-109 grams of protein daily.  A small 4 ounce portion of meat provides 28 grams, so you can see how the protein from animal sources can quickly add up.  Other animal proteins include milk (providing 8 grams per cup) and eggs (7 grams per egg).  In comparison, plant proteins such as beans provide 6 grams per half cup, most nuts offer 5 grams per ounce, and nut butters like peanut butter provide 7 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons.  There are benefits to both plant and animal proteins, and I personally enjoy a variety of both!  Some studies have found a benefit to spreading protein throughout the day, rather than eating most of it at one meal (typically the evening meal here in the U.S.).  Dividing protein intake among meals throughout the day may be helpful in maintaining muscle mass.  So at breakfast, if you add a handful of nuts on top of your cereal with milk and a cooked egg or a cup of yogurt, you will significantly boost your protein intake at that meal.  

Lastly, the trends in sustainability and cost-effectiveness seem to be leading many food producers to the idea of incorporating insects as protein sources for humans.  As mentioned above, you can already find insect ingredients in foods in Europe.  Crickets have been accepted as a novel food item, and mealworms/mealworm powder is up next.  Any insect ingredients in human foods must be declared on the label providing the Latin name of the insect, so consumers only need to look for it and know what they are looking for.  While it hasn’t officially come to America yet, Tyson foods announced recently a partnership with Protix, a leading producer of insect ingredients.  Once their processing facility in the United States is complete, they will focus on incorporating insect ingredients into pet foods, aquaculture and livestock feed.  It’s important to note that insects can be carriers of parasites, some of which are pathogenic to humans, and if the insects are not ethically raised there is concern of passing parasites onto the humans or animals that consume them.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to add insects to my diet anytime soon.  And lab-grown meats?  Well, that is a topic for another time.  Meanwhile, if you desire to decrease your intake of animal proteins, I recommend substituting or adding in a variety of protein-rich plant foods.  In the recipe below, meaty-tasting mushrooms take the place of some of the sausage, but you can still enjoy the best of both worlds.  

Seasonal Recipe

Mushroom and Sausage Ragout with Polenta

Ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mild or hot Italian turkey sausage 

½ cup chopped onion

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt, divided

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 ½ cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 ½ cups water

1 cup uncooked polenta

4 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Method:

  1.  Heat 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat; swirl to coat.  Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet, stirring to crumble.  Cook until browned, about 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; swirl to coat.  Add onion; saute 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add mushrooms; saute 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in sausage, ⅛ teaspoon salt and tomatoes, bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.  
  3. Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add polenta, stirring well.  Reduce heat to medium, simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.  Stir in remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt, cream cheese and butter.  Serve ragout over polenta.  Serves 4 (1 cup polenta with 1 cup ragout).  

Recipe source:  myrecipes.com

For more recipe ideas incorporating plant proteins:

https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipes/recipe/6680/beef-and-black-bean-burgers
https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/spaghetti-with-parmesan-bacon
https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/255575/chicken-quinoa-fried-rice/

Attune Nutrition

Buttonwood Business Center

3610 Buttonwood Dr.

Columbia, MO 65202