Meat has always been considered one of the best sources of protein. However, a new North American study concluded that nuts beat red meat when it comes to protein benefit. The study found that the kind of protein we consume can affect our heart health. It's new evidence that not all protein sources are created equal!
The study —which was published online in April 2018 by the International Journal of Epidemiology — found that people who consumed large amounts of meat protein experienced a 60-percent increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD), while people who consumed large amounts of protein from nuts and seeds experienced a 40-percent reduction in CVD.
They found a disturbing link between eating even small amounts of red meat and heart problems.
A wide variety of nuts, eaten in small quantities each day, will lower blood LDL cholesterol — the bad cholesterol. About 10 to 14 mixed nuts a day was all it took. The study shed some new light on the idea that it may not be the fat but rather the protein that makes nuts so heart-healthy.
Why protein is important for the body
Researchers discovered that it's not just the saturated fat in meat that can be bad for us; the protein may not be as good as others.
For years, we've known that protein is a key component of a balanced diet. Proteins, which are made up of long chains of amino acids, help protect the body from viruses and bacteria and provide power for our cells, helping us grow and stay healthy.
But dietitians think there may be something extra-special and helpful about the protein that we can get from nuts. Walnuts have tons of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health, and hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds are also great choices. Plus, nuts eaten whole have a decent amount of satiating fiber in them, to help keep you full for hours.
A growing pile of evidence that nuts are a great food
A previous research has suggested that when people swap out foods high in saturated fat, like dairy and meat, for sources of unsaturated fat, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish, they actively reduce their risk of developing heart disease and are less likely to die.
But there is something to be said for eating animals, too. Animal proteins, from things like meat, poultry, dairy, and fish, are typically what we consider "complete" proteins, providing all the amino acids needed to make new proteins in our bodies. Veggies, grains, and seeds tend to lack certain specific amino acids, making them incomplete protein sources when consumed alone.
That doesn't mean eating meat is necessarily better for you. Instead, people who don't eat meat or fish simply need to be mindful of eating a balanced plate of various vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds to ensure they're getting all the essential amino acids needed for the body to repair and make new cells.
There's still a lot of fat in nuts, so it's important not to go nuts (if you will) and binge on them all the time. Instead, dietitians suggest thinking of them as a meat substitute, or a good snack choice, while keeping in mind that a serving of nuts is a small handful, or about two tablespoons of nut butter.