Find out how much protein you really need.
Protein is in its heyday! With protein bars, drinks, meals, cereals and more, we are all crazy for protein. So what exactly is protein? Why do we need it and might you be getting too much? Find out here:
Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies; and are constantly being broken down and replaced. Protein is made up of amino acids that are later used for tissue repair and maintenance in the body. There are twenty different amino acids that join together to make the various proteins; some are made in the body, others are not. The amino acids that cannot be made by the body are called essential amino acids; it is essential that our diet provide these.
Dietary protein sources are evaluated according to how many essential amino acids they provide. Complete proteins are those that provide all of the essential amino acids. Animal-based foods for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are complete protein sources. Incomplete proteins on the other hand, are those that are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids; an example includes tofu with brown rice.
Although some protein is needed for muscle growth, most people overemphasize protein needs. The average American eats about three times the amount of protein he or she actually needs. But this might not actually be a bad thing! Protein keeps you satisfied and keeps other cravings at bay.
Here are some guidelines you can use to determine how much protein you should strive to consume and what foods provide it:
How much do you need? In general, it's recommended that 10–35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) varies by age group. Generally women require about 46 grams and men at least 52 grams a day. Keep in mind that this is the basic requirement. Individually, your needs might vary. Most people do best with having at least 15 grams of protein at every meal and snack.
Shop Carefully: Look for protein-rich lean meats, poultry and fish as well as dairy products, legumes, tofu, nuts and nut-butter. Cereals, breads, beans and vegetables are also good sources of protein. One serving of animal protein is about the size of your palm, or a deck of cards. Vegetarian protein servings are slightly larger.
Get Help: If you have any specific health conditions that may alter your daily nutritional requirements, would like more information about RDAs, or need to determine your total daily caloric intake, contact your health care provider or see if your supermarket has a dietitian on staff.