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5 protein myths you shouldn’t believe

You should eat a lot more protein if you want big muscles, right? Wrong. We separate the myths from the facts when it comes to this important nutrient

One small thing: If you choose to follow a plant-based diet, get your protein from a wide range of plant proteins, such as beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, nut butters, edamame beans, tofu and tempeh.

There are many misconceptions about protein, so we decided to set the record straight.

1. The only function of protein is to build muscle

Protein forms the building blocks of all body tissues and muscles, but this isn’t its only important function. Having enough protein is critical in helping your body to fight infections, maintaining the balance of body fluids and regulating your metabolism.

2. Taking a protein supplement is necessary for muscle building

While protein is important for building new muscles, eating the right amount of protein is key. When you eat more protein than your body needs, your body creates excess energy, which needs to be stored – usually in the form of fat. Protein powders and supplements are not necessary, even for top athletes and body builders as it’s possible to achieve an extra intake through diet alone. However, these protein powders, especially whey powders, can be convenient for athletes who need a protein boost immediately after a workout and don't have the time for a meal.

3. You won’t get enough protein if you are vegan

A well-planned plant-based diet shouldn’t compromise your protein intake. Eating a variety of plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, nut butters, tofu and tempeh, can provide a healthy amount of protein for vegans and vegetarians . However, for endurance athletes, and sportsmen and women looking to gain weight, it can be more difficult to meet protein requirements on a plant-based diet – protein supplements are often recommended as a top-up.

4. Soya is bad for you

This myth stems from the fact that soya contains isoflavones, compounds in plants that can mimic oestrogen in the body, which is a possible risk for certain breast cancers. However, The American Cancer Society has confirmed that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this “mimic oestrogen effect” is far too weak to cause cancer. While soya foods are good for your health, soya supplements are not recommended.

5. Too much protein leads to osteoporosis

Recent research from the National Osteoporosis Foundation debunks this myth as evidence shows that there are no links between higher protein intake and bone density.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

References:
https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/protein-and-the-athlete
https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/how-much-protein-should-i-eat
https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/vegetarian-and-special-diets/protein-foods-for-your-vegetarian-child
https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0419p30.shtml
https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Diets/The-Scoop-on-Soy.aspx