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Best Protein Sources

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What protein is and why we need it

Protein is considered one of the 6 essential nutrients and one of the 3 macronutrients to be included in the diet. Protein is derived from amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.

In total, there are 20 amino acids that we use and 9 of which are essential.  Essential amino acids can only be consumed through the diet since the body is unable to produce them on its own.  There are different classifications of protein including non-essential (our bodies can make it on their own), conditionally essential (when a non-essential amino acid is needed in the diet), and essential. Protein is found everywhere in the body and is especially important to consume when the body is under high stress.  We need protein because it helps repair muscle and tissue damage, for hormone synthesis, growth and development, and other bodily functions.

Food sources of protein

Protein sources can be found in many different foods.  We have protein in both plants and animal products.  It is important that if consuming a plant-based diet, protein sources are in larger quantities to help meet your essential amino acid intake. Examples of combining protein sources would be having whole-grain pita with hummus or rice and beans. Consuming animal-based products will help meet your essential amino acid intake while plant-based protein sources like tofu also contain the essential amino acids.  Protein can be consumed in many ways including in its purest form, smoothies, and shakes.  Protein sources can also have different textures and can be modified to your own liking.

Our top recommended protein sources

Omega 3-rich protein

Plant-based protein

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Chickpea Tofu (soy free)
  • Nuts & Nut Butter
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Seeds
  • Slightly lower: whole grains

Protein Supplemented:

Protein and IBD

It can be hard for patients with IBD to maintain adequate nutrition, especially when there is inflammation that is present.  Inflammation can affect the digestive tract, causing malabsorption and decreased appetite, making it difficult for those with IBD to meet their nutritional needs.  When a patient with IBD is in a flare, the recommended amount of protein will be based on their disease state.  An example would be consuming a higher protein diet that includes 1.5 grams/kilogram of body weight of protein per day.  When that person’s IBD is in a more stable state, the recommended amount of protein will become lower.  It is crucial to work with a Registered Dietitian to receive individualized therapy.  Protein intake is also dependent on kidney function since a low-protein diet is sometimes used in patients with kidney disease, depending on their renal function.

Key Takeaways

Protein is one of the six essential nutrients that we need to live a healthy lifestyle.  Protein has many functions and is crucial in the diet, especially during an IBD flare.  Malnutrition is common in IBD and can worsen the disease while increasing hospitalization.  There are many protein sources that can be obtained in the diet and can be consumed in a variety of ways.  It is important to address your protein needs with a Registered Dietitian who can develop an individualized plan for you according to your disease state and medical history.