Lifestyle Medicine: Protein

By April D. Beresford, FNP-C, DipACLM and Dr. Jacqueline Brayman

I love protein! This is your editor, Jacqueline, speaking. I schedule workouts for as many days a week as I can. (Sometimes it is just impossible, isn’t it?) Especially on days when I do weight work, I crave a big hunk of meat. 

Trainer and former NFL linebacker Marcus Bernard coaches Jacqueline on the need for building muscle and eating enough protein.

But our Lifestyle Consultant April Beresford  says, “while protein is good for the body, animal based- proteins can include a lot of things that aren’t good for the body.” I am learning that animal protein put us at MUCH higher risk of food-borne chronic illness like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, kidney disease and other disorders that can be life-threatening. 

So, I am working (and it takes a lot of conscious effort) to love plant proteins, too. My goal is to replace most animal proteins with plant proteins. April explains that making this change will decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, saturated fat intake, calorie consumption and more.

Plant proteins also increase fiber consumption and help to improve insulin sensitivity and microbiome diversity (gut health). They also provide a variety of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that meat and cheese and eggs do not. Because plant proteins are also less calorie-dense, I can eat more of them each day. My big go-to for plant protein is nuts. Walnuts are the “bomb”—chock full of nutrients. Almonds are great, too. Here is April’s list of common plant-based options: legumes (all types of beans, lentils, peas) nuts, seeds, whole-grain pasta, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, oats, soy products. spinach, brussels sprouts, avocado, tomatoes, bell pepper, and even bananas, and apples. For me it is a matter of mind over tongue and tummy. My mind says, “You want to live long and healthily.” My tongue and tummy say, “Bring on the burger.” Who will win? I am hoping my mind wins out and you don’t see my name in the obituaries for a long time. How do you think about animal versus plant protein? What shifts might be possible for you?