Do animal proteins really cause cancer?

In fact, our body needs protein. This macronutrient plays an important role in our body, which includes helping cells, tissues and organs to function. Protein is important to consume for the synthesis of amino acids that make up protein chains, and some amino acids our body cannot produce on its own.

Myth 1: We can’t overdo it with protein

There are several reasons not to overdo it with protein. If you eat more than you need (for example, women who weigh 60 kg need 46 g of protein), you can overload the kidneys, which can lead to injuries and the development of diseases such as gout. The problem is most common in people who follow the keto or Atkins diet, which consumes a lot of meat and eggs, which are often rich in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol and can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Myth 2: Not all protein can be obtained from meat

Experts initially thought that we needed to combine some plant proteins to create a protein that contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. It is important to eat different food groups during the day and not burden yourself with the perfect combination of plant proteins in one meal.

A 2019 review found that vegetarians who ate enough protein-rich foods also got more than enough protein and amino acids. Beans, nuts and seeds can meet your daily needs as well as animal protein (a cup of cooked black beans contains 16 grams of protein, which is about 35% of your daily needs compared to 100 grams of beef containing 29 grams of protein).

Myth 3: Cheese is a great source of protein

Although cheese can be high in protein, it is also high in calories, sodium and saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to about 13 grams per day and limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day. It would be best to choose a low-fat cheese such as feta, mozzarella and cottage cheese, or stick to small portions if it is a cheese high in saturated fat. In any case, cheese should not be your main source of protein.

Myth 4: Animal protein causes cancer

If you eat meat, don’t worry because not all types of meat are the same. When doctors talk about the link between meat and cancer, they mostly think of red meat and processed meats such as bacon, sausages, ham and dried beef. The World Health Organization believes that processed meat belongs to carcinogenic group 1, which means that it can cause colon cancer, for which there is evidence.

Red meats such as beef, pork, veal and lamb belong to carcinogenic group 2, and some evidence suggests that they may increase the risk of cancer. If you eat animal protein, focus more on wild-caught fish, shellfish, chicken and duck meat, and eggs that, unlike red meat, do not have the cancer-related Neu5Gc sugar molecule. Focus on a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fish, which according to JAMA internal medicine research can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 43%.

Myth 5: Protein supplements are a great way to increase protein intake

Protein powder and protein bars are quite processed with added sugars or other sweeteners, dyes and preservatives. It is optimal to get protein from wholesome food sources, as this way you can also get other nutrients such as calcium and fiber. Occasional protein bars or powders can be good supplements. It is important to pay attention to the ingredients, which should be as simple as possible. Be careful that sugar is not the first ingredient no matter what name it is given, even if it is honey or maple syrup.

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