According to a recent (2008) study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the amount of protein an adult needs daily is based on weight, not age.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day. (Note: Some men may need a little more protein if they are engaged in strenuous physical activity such as bodybuilding, endurance sports, or heavy physical labor.) That translates into about 54 grams of protein daily for a 150-lb adult, which then translates into approximately 1.5 chicken breasts or a 7-ounce steak. (Campbell 2008)
Those 54 grams, however, can also be found in foods that are not animal based, but plant based, and protein from plants is better for your overall health and the health of your prostate.
When most people think of protein, they think of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but did you know that there are several legumes and grains that are exceptional sources of protein? Your daily protein intake can be obtained from a number of sources with high protein content including lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, seitan, high protein grains and many others. Given the warnings on meat consumption and prostate cancer, it makes sense to make plant protein significant part of your diet if you have a prostate disorder or you are concerned about your health.
Great sources of plant and vegetable based protein include:
This ancient grain-like food, which was first cultivated thousands of years ago, is actually a seed. Rich in protein (10 grams per cup, cooked), it is also a very good source of fiber, with three times the fiber of wheat. Amaranth also contains more than 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, and folate. It also contains phytosterols and tocotrienols, two substances that help the body eliminate cholesterol. Amaranth is easy to prepare: just cook it like rice using a ratio of 1 part amaranth to three parts water and it’s done in 15 to 20 minutes. It’s great as a cereal, popped like popcorn, toasted, or sprouted. You can cook it with other whole grains and add it to stir-fry or to soups or stews. Amaranth is also safe for anyone who is wheat gluten sensitive (celiac disease).
Black, red kidney, white, pinto—all of these legumes are an excellent source of plant protein, but they also offer a lot more. Beans are a very good source of fiber, which helps in the fight against cholesterol. The fiber in beans also prevents blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal, which makes beans a good menu item for people who have diabetes. Antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins also are found in beans. Basically, the darker the bean’s seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Therefore, black beans rank higher than red, brown, yellow, and white beans, in that order, in antioxidant power. But when it comes to protein, the order changes. Cooked black beans provide 15 grams per cup, while red kidney beans pack about 16 grams, brown (pinto) offer 14 grams, and white beans have 19 grams. To cook fresh beans, you need three cups of water for each cup of dried beans for stovetop cooking. Bring the beans to a boil and then simmer for about 90 minutes. Beans are a great for making soup, stews, and chili, and tasty in bean salads as well as a protein addition to green salads.
It sounds like wheat and looks like a cereal grain, but buckwheat is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb. You may know it as kasha or groats, but whatever you call it, buckwheat contains all eight essential amino acids and is a high-quality protein source, about 12 grams per cup, cooked. There are many ways to prepare it, but the basic recipe is easy: 1 cup of buckwheat and 1 ½ cups water, bring to a boil, simmer for 10-15 minutes, and then let it stand for 5 minutes. Buckwheat is a good substitute for rice and provides a fair amount of protein. If you are wheat-sensitive, no problem: buckwheat does not contain gluten.
This is another ancient food that is believed to have first been grown in either Egypt or Asia and is now a patented US product. Unlike the other three high-protein “grains,” kamut is really a grain. Sometimes referred to as “sweet wheat,” kamut’s protein content is 40 percent higher than traditional wheat, providing about 9 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked, and it has a higher vitamin content. Preparing kamut does take a bit longer than the other “grains” in this section: it takes about 1.5 hours to slow cook 1 cup of kamut in 4 cups of water. Although kamut is a close relative to durum wheat, about 70 percent of people who are allergic or sensitive to traditional wheat are not allergic to kamut. (Quinn 1999)
Like beans, lentils are high in protein (18 grams per cup, cooked) and fiber, and so are also helpful in lowering cholesterol and managing blood sugar levels. They also provide excellent amounts of folate and good levels of iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Preparing lentils is easy: use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. Place the lentils in boiling water and simmer for about 30 minutes for green lentils and 20 minutes for red ones. Lentils are good in soups and stews, and mixed with vegetables, noodles, and curry.
This is not a grain but the seed of a leafy plant that is a distant relative of spinach. It has been cultivated in the Andean mountains for more than 5,000 years and was considered a sacred food by the Incas. Quinoa is a complete protein (8 grams per cup, cooked), and it is also a good source of potassium and riboflavin, as well as niacin, B6, iron, and thiamin. This seed is very easy to make and takes only a few minutes to prepare: combine one part quinoa with two parts liquid and simmer for 15 minutes.
Although split peas belong to the same family as lentils and peas, they are usually considered as a separate group because they are prepared differently. Dried split peas are an excellent source of protein, providing about 16 grams per cup, cooked. They are also a great source of fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels, but they also provide folate, manganese, and thiamin. Split peas contain isoflavones which have been linked to a reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer. To prepare split peas, use three cups of water for every cup of dried peas. Once the water comes to a boil, simmer the peas for about 30 minutes. In addition to split pea soup, these tasty legumes are used to make dahl (a classic Indian dish) and enjoyed pureed with herbs to serve as a side dish.
Tempeh and seitan are a great source of protein and an excellent meat substitute for prostate health.
This fermented soybean food has been a staple in Indonesia for more than 2,000 years, and a highly nutritious food that has gradually gained acceptance elsewhere as a plant protein alternative to meat. It is made by cooking and dehulling soybeans, inoculating them with a culturing agent like the fungus Rhizopus oligosporus, and incubating the mixture overnight until it forms a solid cake. Tempeh has high levels of protein (about 41 grams per cup), along with riboflavin, magnesium, manganese, copper, fiber, and isoflavones. Soy protein has been shown to help lower harmful cholesterol and raise beneficial cholesterol, as well as help regulate blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. Tempeh can be stir-fried, heating in a skillet, added to sauces and soups, and made into chili.
Although seitan (pronounced “say-tan’) is made from wheat, it isn’t like bread or flour. The finished product looks like and has the texture of meat. It is very high in protein and is popular in Asian restaurants as a mock meat or meat substitute. Like tofu, seitan readily absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked in or flavored with, so you can find chicken, beef, and fish flavored seitan. If you have a wheat allergy, however, seitan is not for you. You can find it in the refrigerated and frozen sections of natural food stores, and it is very easy to prepare.
|Plant Based Foods||Grams|
|Tempeh, 1 cup||41|
|Fava beans (Broad), 1 cup cooked||22|
|White beans, 1 cup cooked||19|
|Red kidney beans, 1 cup cooked||16|
|Black beans, 1 cup cooked||15|
|Chickpeas, 1 cup cooked||12|
|Lima beans, 1 cup cooked||12|
|Kamut, 1 cup cooked||9|
|Lentils, ½ cup cooked||9|
|Flaxseeds, ¼ cup||8|
|Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup||8|
|Quinoa, 1 cup cooked||8|
|Split peas, ½ cup cooked||8|
|Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup||6|
|Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked||5.7|
|Amaranth, ½ cup cooked||5|
|Cashews, ¼ cup||5|
Eating lots of protein and taking protein supplements can help correct a protein deficiency however eating excess protein above and beyond the amount necessary to promote normal healthy muscle development and overall health can be a problem. This is clearly a case of when taking a little is beneficial, and taking a lot can be hazardous to your health. If the body takes in excessive amount of protein, it must break it down into the amino acid components so the body can eliminate them. In other words, if you take too much protein, you will send the excess down the toilet.
Another problem is that the process of breaking down the protein produces several byproducts, especially urea, which must be processed further in the liver before the body can eliminate it. All of this extra filtering through the liver creates a significant strain on the kidneys.
One other downside of consuming too much protein is the potential effect on bone loss. Research shows that diets like the Atkins Diet as well as others that contain too much protein can actually lead to an increase in bone loss and osteoporosis. The problem is that once this occurs, men generally turn to calcium as a supplement to aid in bone regeneration. Calcium has been linked to an increase in prostate cancer risk so anybody at risk for prostate cancer needs to carefully manage any treatment and supplementation for osteoporosis. More on calcium and prostate cancer
Protein supplements come in several forms, with powder being perhaps the most commonly used. Although protein supplements are used by people from all walks of life, they are especially popular among athletes and body builders, but individuals who are concerned about their protein intake and/or who are on weight loss diets often turn to these supplements as well.
Soy versus Whey Protein Supplements
If you are considering taking a protein supplement, one of the first questions you might ask is, should I take a soy-based or whey-based protein supplement?
Soy protein is derived from the soybean plant and contains all the essential amino acids. In October 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted soy protein manufacturers the right to place a claim on their product labels that cannot be placed on whey protein products. In essence, the label can state that a “daily diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat and that contains 25 grams of soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease”.
Isoflavone Levels in Soy Protein Supplements
Soy supplements differ in their isoflavone content to pure soy products. A typical amount is 3.4 mg of isoflavones per gram of protein. Therefore, the 25 grams of soy protein that the FDA says may reduce the risk of heart disease carries 85 mg of isoflavones, nearly three times the suggested daily amount. If you are trying to limit your intake of soy isoflavones to 30 mg or less per day you should monitor your use of soy protein supplements.
Whey protein is part of the byproducts left over from the process of turning milk into cheese. Whey is a complete protein and the most bioavailable of all food protein sources, which means the body can more efficiently absorb and use it than it can other sources.
Whey protein however can cause allergic reactions in some people who are lactose intolerant. Some experts also believe consuming too much whey protein can cause kidney problems because it boosts the pH of the blood and increases acidity in the blood. This makes it more difficult for the kidneys to metabolize these proteins. Whey protein can damage the liver because excessive whey increases the ketone level in the blood, resulting in ketosis of the liver. A mineral imbalance can also result from consuming too much whey protein, leading to a calcium and collagen deficiency and ultimately, osteoporosis. Excessive amounts of whey protein can cause gout, as well as headache, nausea, loss of appetite, cramps, and tiredness.
Beware of “Other Ingredients” in Protein Supplements
Other ingredients you can expect to see on protein supplement powder labels include soy protein isolate (defatted soy meal), milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, L-glutamine, taurine, oils (sunflower, safflower, canola), fructose, sucralose, aspartame, natural and artificial flavors and many others. In fact, most protein supplement labels contain dozens of ingredients and chemicals that you have probably never heard of, or know what they do. If you and your healthcare provider decide you need to take a protein supplement, look for those that do not contain added ingredients such as fructose and other sweeteners and natural and artificial flavors. There are some non-whey, non-soy based protein powders, including some made from hemp, but you need to shop around. You should also be aware of all the other ingredients these products may contain. Check your local health food store for protein supplement options.