The surprising protein secret to flexible healthy arteries

Be honest: When was the last time you really thought about protein?

Vegans and vegetarians practically obsess over the stuff, because they know they have a hard time getting what they need.

But the rest of us almost never give it a second thought. There's meat on the table, so we assume we're getting enough.

It's time to change that thinking, my friend. It's time to up your protein game and put a little more thought into it -- because you need more than just the right amounts.

You need the right kinds, too.

Proteins are made of amino acids, but they're not all made of the same amino acids. And if you're missing out on certain amino acids, you're missing out on some key benefits.

The amino acids found in plant proteins such as nuts and beans, for example, can help cut your blood pressure levels, according to a new study.

If you're a vegetarian, don't take too much comfort in that -- because the same study finds animal proteins such as meats, fish, cheese and eggs pack an even bigger benefit.

And it's one of the most important benefits of all: less stiffness in your arteries.

That's a key marker of cardiovascular health, as stiffer arteries are a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

You can -- and should -- keep them flexible with regular exercise and by not smoking. But the new study finds that glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine -- amino acids found largely in animal sources of protein -- can have the same effect on artery health as exercise and quitting cigarettes.

This isn't a license to scarf down hamburgers for dinner. As you'll see in an email later today, hamburger is just about the worst meat you could possibly have on the menu (keep an eye on your in-box for that one).

Instead, healthy fish such as salmon and small amounts of quality lean red meat -- even just a small 2.5-ounce steak -- will give you adequate doses of those essential amino acids.

But don't stop there.

Get the best of both worlds -- get the right plant proteins along with your animal proteins -- and enjoy both lower blood pressure and healthier arteries.