University of Southern California researchers recently announced that the folks who were at highest risk for deadly cancers were eating 100 grams (3.5 ounces) or more of meat protein daily on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet! And a heavy meat habit in middle age boosts cancer risk just as much as smoking. In fact, it increases the odds for an earlier death by 74 percent.
These findings join a wave of new science suggesting that the type of protein and amount of protein that you choose to eat can be a health bomb or a healthy boost. So here are the best ways to put tasty, satisfying protein on your plate, worry-free: Right-size it. Stick with the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines: 46 grams of protein a day for women, 56 for men. It will help control appetite. On a daily basis, you want to aim for the amount of protein found in a 4-ounce salmon fillet; an ounce of nuts, especially walnuts, the only nuts with omega-3’s; 8 ounces of skim milk; two tablespoons of pure peanut butter; and a little bit in whole grains and veggies, plus a cup of oatmeal for the guys.
Cut way back on red and processed meats. Saturated-fat-packed red meats put you at risk for heart-stopping atherosclerosis, but that’s not the only way they threaten your cardiovascular system and other vital bodily functions. They also contain carnitine, lecithin and choline — amino acids that are transformed into TMAO (or trimethylamine n-oxide) by intestinal bacteria when you eat egg yolks, processed meats, beef and pork.
Choose other animal proteins wisely. There are animal proteins that deliver healthy nutrients: Fish like salmon and ocean trout provide heart-smart, brain-friendly DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Skinless chicken and turkey breast deliver plenty of protein with little saturated fat. Stick with smart portions.
Go meatless more often. Beans, soy products like tofu and tempeh — well-flavored with healthy spices and herbs — and nuts are satisfying alternatives to meat.
Have some protein at every meal. Don’t wait for dinner. Spreading your protein out over the day helps muscles make the most of it, especially as you age.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.