Gosh, there are so many different kinds of diets out there. Some advocate a high-protein diet, while others advocate a low-protein diet. Who is right? What are the right kinds, and what is the right amount of protein you should consume on a daily basis?
In this post, I’ll share with you a few important facts about proteins. Having the right knowledge can help you improve your diet – and your health.
#1 Protein is very important to our health.
Beneath all of the colorful stories created around proteins is a simple fact: Proteins are essential to our health. They are the building blocks for most tissues in the body, including muscles, bones, blood and visceral organs. They also make up our digestive enzymes and hormones, and play important roles in many of the body’s vital processes. In short, we can’t survive, let alone thrive, without protein.
#2 We need to source essential proteins from foods.
There are 20 common amino acids (building blocks of proteins) in the body. 11 of them can be synthesized by the body, while 9 of them have to be sourced from the foods we eat. These 9 amino acids are referred to as essential amino acids.
#3 Some proteins are better than others.
An important thing to note is that you need to eat the 9 essential amino acids during the same time period (in the course of a day) for your body to synthesize the rest of the non-essential amino acids. Otherwise you may run the risk of a protein deficiency.
A high quality protein has all of the essential amino acids, but a low quality protein is lacking one or more. Foods that have complete proteins are generally from the animal sources, such as eggs, fish, beef, poultry, and diary products. Most plant-based proteins lack one or more amino acids.
An exception would be soy, which has all of the essential amino acids.
#4 You can get all the protein you need by complementing the foods you eat.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, it’s extra important for you to complement your foods so you can obtain all of the essential amino acids in your diet. For example, rice is low in the essential amino acid, lysine. Beans are low in the essential amino acid, methionine. But by eating rice and beans together, you can get your full complement of essential amino acids. Other examples would include macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and bread, or cereal and milk.
#5 You need the right amount of protein in your diet, not too much, not too little.
If you don’t have adequate protein in your diet, you run the risk of a protein deficiency and declining physical and mental functions. However, if you eat too much protein, you run the risk of overburdening your liver and kidneys because waste products from the breakdown of protein have to be eliminated in the urine as urea. Besides, contrary to common belief, extra protein will not help build muscle, but will instead be stored as fat.
So how much protein do you need? There is a simple formula you can use to determine the right amount of protein based on your body weight.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 gram per kg (1kg = 2.2 lbs) per day.
For example, I weigh about 120 lbs, or 55 kg (120 lbs/2.2). So my RDA of protein would be 44 grams (55 kg x 0.8).
Here are some examples of foods I can source the required protein from:
3 ounce servings of lean meat, fish or poultry = 21 grams of protein
2 eggs = 16 grams
2 slices of fat-free cheese = 10 grams
1 slice of bread = 3 grams
One cup of yogurt = 10 grams
Note that if you’re physically active, growing, healing, pregnant or nursing, you’re likely to need more protein to support these extra activities.
Achieving optimal health calls for a healthy and balanced diet, protein included. So make sure you have the right kind and right amount of protein every day. May you thrive and blossom!