How much do you know about protein? Are you eating enough protein? Are you getting it from the right sources? Let's talk about it.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Proteins are often referred to as the building blocks of life given that they make up most of our skin, bones, hair, muscles, nails, and cartilage. So I'd say they're kind of important. Proteins also support our immune system, are used to create several hormones, and help our bodies maintain homeostasis. WOW. They've got a pretty big job.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED?
Many people are totally unaware of how much protein they may need, and under- or over-consumption can be dangerous. So let me give you the text book answer first:
A human's protein needs are 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. That's 54g for a 150-pound individual. However, our protein needs fluctuate based on our age, physical activity, goals, and stage of life.
Ideally, your protein intake should be anywhere from 10-35% of your daily caloric intake. That's a relatively wide range, but again, dietary protein should be considered in accordance with an individual’s weight, health, activity levels, and goals.
ARE HIGH-PROTEIN DIETS GOOD FOR YOU?
Higher protein diets are not unpopular and are trending in the weight-loss / muscle gain world. While some people may be able to tolerate an increased amount of protein, this definitely isn't for everyone. There is some concern that these diets contain high levels of saturated fats and may stress the kidneys. It's important to understand your own body's needs and tolerances before deviating from the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of macronutrients.
Also, keep in mind that increasing protein does not necessarily suggest increasing meat or caloric intake. Do your research and talk to your physician if you plan on adjusting your intake!
Protein that comes from food derived from animals is considered complete protein because it contains all necessary amino acids. In several (not all) cases, animal-based protein provides more grams of protein in one serving than it's plant-based alternatives. Certain sources of animal protein can contain high levels of heme iron and vitamin B-12, while some plant-based foods lack these nutrients.1
Great animal-based protein sources include:
lean poultry (chicken, turkey)
cheese, yogurt, milk (and other dairy products)
Plant-based sources of protein are considered incomplete because they are typically lacking in one or two amino acids that our bodies need. However, we can still get adequate protein from plants by eating a variety of foods to ensure we're getting all amino acids. A more plant-based diet has shown to lower cholesterol, decrease the amount of saturated fats consumed, benefit the environment, and are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Great plant-based sources include:
organic soy products
Your goal should always be to do what's best for you. Your body has unique and very individual needs, so it is imperative you find a nutritional balance that best suits YOU.
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IIN, Institute for Integrative Nutrition
Harvard Health Publishing