Consumer Reports: The latest food craze — protein

Consumer Reports: The latest food craze — protein

You see protein touted on all kinds of products these days. It’s being added to everything from tortilla chips to English muffins to breakfast cereal. We need protein in our diet to help repair cells and build new ones. And some studies show that it can help curb hunger. But do we need extra protein added to our food?

The truth is that most Americans get enough protein in their daily diet. And foods with added protein are not necessarily better for you. Added protein is often one of many highly processed ingredients in a lot of those foods. It’s best to get your protein from whole foods like dairy products, soy, eggs, beans, and lean meats.

“Protein” on a label can also lead to unhealthy choices. If you see the word on, say, a brownie package, you may think that the snack is good for you. But a “protein” brownie that Consumer Reports assessed containa 400 calories and has 24 grams of fat.

To see how protein-pumped foods taste, Consumer Reports did blind taste tests for a wide range of smoothies, cereals, snacks, and bread products, and found that most of the protein versions didn’t taste as good as the regular ones. Plus they can cost more, so you could actually be paying more for an added nutrient you don’t even need.

One exception: Some of the protein shakes tasted quite good. But they get their protein from real milk rather than some kind of processed protein.

When we hear “protein,” too many of us think “red meat.” Consumer Reports says make an effort to have fish a couple times per week. Go for nuts as a snack, and remember that foods like hummus and edamame are a fun way to eat beans, which are rich in protein as well.