There’s a common misconception that a high-protein diet is bad for bone health but nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, years of research show that getting plenty of protein is crucial for bone density – provided you get enough of a key mineral.
Studies show that getting the right amount of protein in your diet improves your bone health. It lowers your chance of osteoporosis (bone loss) by helping you hold on to your bone density, and it helps prevent breaks as you age, too.
Proteins form the foundation of every living thing! But what proteins, exactly? Under a microscope, proteins are made out of long chains of amino acids linked together as links or blocks. There are 20 amino acids needed for metabolism and human growth found in food or supplements. The best sources of amino acids are found in animal proteins such as beef and in poultry. Eggs are a good source of lean protein. And even though there is cholesterol in the yolk, it is not as likely to raise your cholesterol level as foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats do.
Animal proteins are the most easily absorbed and used by your body. Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins.
When it comes to your bones, protein is especially important. Protein makes up roughly one-third of your bones mass (the amount of protein your bones contain) and half of your bone volume (the amount of space protein takes up). Women need at least 50 grams of protein a day — men about 60 grams per day. With a high-protein diet, it can be much more than that. This extra protein can come from beans, meat, nuts, grains, eggs, seafood, cheese or vegetarian sources like soy. These diets often restrict carbs like cereals, grains, fruits, and possibly vegetables. When it comes to Beans, One and a quarter cup of beans has about as much protein as 3 ounces of broiled steak. Along with protein, the fiber in beans helps you feel full longer and also helps lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Be choosy. The best high-protein plans focus on lean proteins and include some carbs. Avoid huge helpings of fatty meats and make sure to include vegetables.
Fish is loaded with protein and almost always low in fat. Even the fish that have more fat, such as salmon and tuna, are good choices. Those fish generally have omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Most people don’t get enough omega-3s. Milk, cheese, and yogurt give you protein and calcium for strong bones and a healthy heart. Low-fat, nonfat, or reduced-fat dairy products can help you keep calorie counts down.
The protein in your bones is continuously broken down and built back up, as part of your bone remodeling process. Unfortunately, the protein that’s broken down isn’t reabsorbed and reused. That’s why you need a daily supply of protein to maintain your bone density.
Now we realize that for the last 70 years, most of the westernized world has been told red meat is bad. Interestingly, our extracellular bone matrix is made primarily of collagen. Collagen is a protein. Our matrix is like a flexible framework for bone. Calcium hardens this framework and adds strength to it. Together they are 2 components of bone. With 28 different types of collagen, type 1 is the most abundant form found in bones. Our body doesn’t absorb collagen molecules, but rather they are broken down into amino acids. The bottom line is: Don’t shy away from animal protein. Your bones will love you for it!