There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life, the researchers and experts said.
Meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health, said Connie Diekman, a food and nutrition consultant in St. Louis and a past president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9-ounce steak,” Diekman said.
On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, said Kayla Jaeckel, a registered dietitian and diabetes care manager with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the amino acids formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. Animal protein also could affect the health of people’s gut bacteria.
One weakness of the study is that it relied on people’s memories, as they were asked to remember what they’d eaten and fill out a questionnaire, Diekman said.
“This provides a glimpse at diet intake but doesn’t show patterns, and patterns are key,” Diekman said. “Combining an egg with brown rice and veggies provides a very different nutrient intake than eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.”
These findings also run counter to other recent studies that have shown eggs are healthier than folks believed for decades, Jaeckel said.
“I think eggs can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. I wouldn’t want eggs to be painted in a negative light, because I feel like there’s always been flip-flopping with them,” Jaeckel added.
Diekman said, “My take on the study, and what I would tell clients, is that evidence continues to grow to support the importance of consuming more plant foods and less animal foods, while also boosting vegetable, whole grain and fruit intake. We can enjoy our favorite, heavy egg or meat dish but probably not every day, and preferably in balance with lots of plant foods.”
The report was published online July 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
WebMD News from HealthDay
SOURCES: Jiaqi Huang, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, U.S. National Cancer Institute; Demetrius Albanes, MD, senior investigator, U.S. National Cancer Institute; Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, food and nutrition consultant, St. Louis; Kayla Jaeckel, MPH, RD, registered dietitian and diabetes care manager, Mount Sinai Health System, New York City;JAMA Internal Medicine, July 13, 2020, online
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