Protein is an important macronutrient found in many types of foods. Protein is a molecule which contains various types and configurations of chemicals called amino acids. Protein is an essential nutrient that humans need to sustain life.
Protein acts as a building block for many structures in the body including muscle, bone, connective tissue, hair, nails, and important chemicals known as enzymes. Enzymes are necessary to drive all of the millions of chemical reactions in our complex body that occur every second.
Sources of Protein: Foods With Complete Protein
Complete protein is found in various foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. A complete protein contains all of the nine essential amino acids as these cannot be manufactured by our own cells. Foods like whole grains and most legumes are not considered complete proteins except for soy.
Different Amount of Protein for Different Age Groups
The recommended amount of protein varies depending upon your age, activity level, body weight, and health status. However, the recommendation that 10-35% of the calories in your diet should be composed of protein is rather unfounded. It is not the amount of protein you need to specifically worry about but it’s the sources of protein that matter.
Many people worry that if they increase their protein intake, they will eat too much red meat and saturated fat instead of vegetables, fiber, and nutrients. The other worry is that increasing your protein intake will cause your body to excrete calcium and manufacture oxalate and purines which could lead to the formation of kidney stones and a condition known as gout.
These situations are possible if your consumption of red meat is quite high. It’s true that red meat is high in saturated fat and can also cause metabolic disturbances in susceptible people. Protein from red meat which is commercially-raised also contains a great deal of arachidonic acid which can increase levels of inflammation inside the body.
However, if you choose to consume protein from sources like fish, poultry, Greek yogurt, whey, soy, eggs, and organic, free range meats, the issue of saturated fat is not a concern. Eating good quality protein at every meal helps keep your weight under control, stabilize blood sugar, and keep insulin secretion to a minimum. Adequate protein in your diet is necessary to keep your immune system strong, maintain muscle tissue, and keep your metabolism running smoothly. Remember, you need a continual supply of essential amino acids to keep your body in an anabolic environment. This will allow you to keep more muscle on your body while discouraging the storage of body fat.
Try to consume approximately 40% of your calories from protein. So considering that protein contains four calories per gram, if you are eating 2,000 calories per day, you would need approximately 125 grams of protein per day.
If you are eating five meals per day, this would require you to eat approximately 25 grams of protein per meal. The average amount of protein in a medium chicken breast, six egg whites, one cup of Greek yogurt, or one can of albacore tuna is 30 grams.
In my opinion, most people eat the wrong sources of protein in enormous quantities without having the metabolic requirements for doing so. Choose carefully and consume generous portions of healthy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats contained in fish, nuts and olive oil.
Fetters, A., “How Much Protein Do You Really Need?” Yahoo! web site; http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/healthy-living/much-protein-really-182000306.html, last accessed Dec.9, 2013.