Known as life’s building blocks, protein is present in every cell in the human body. An amino acid chain is the primary protein structure.
Protein is a vital ingredient in the diet as it helps in repairing cells and the development of new cells. It also is an essential element in the growth and development.
What is Protein?Originating from the Greek word “protos,” which means “first,” protein is essential to having good health. Protein is required for the development of antibodies, blood, hair, muscles, enzymes, etc.
While athletes and bodybuilders tend to take an extra amount of protein to bulk up, an average person does not need to take that much.
How MuchAccording to Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), an average healthy person needs only 0.8 grams per kilogram of weight. The RDA estimates the number of nutrients you require to meet essential nutritional requirements.
You can determine your daily protein requirement by multiplying your weight (pounds) by 0.36. For instance, a 45-year-old sedentary man weighing approximately 150 pounds, requires around 54 grams of protein daily.
But this RDA rule has caused a lot of confusion in people. Not only the general public, but even the healthcare professional has some confusion about this requirement.
Is More Protein Better?For a moderately active adult, the minimum daily protein intake that meets RDA standards is about 10% of total caloric intake for the day.
In comparison, an average American takes nearly approximately 16% of the daily calories as proteins, both animal and plant sources. So, is this more?
According to studies reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this number is not excessive. Contrary to popular beliefs, studies have shown that Americans are consuming less protein.
According to researchers, the potential benefits of having a higher protein intake include maintaining a lean and fit physique as well as preserving muscle strength. This, however, has to be spaced out and not loaded at one go.
Based on various studies, healthcare experts estimate that one should take more protein than those recommended in RDA.
This will roughly equate to around 15% to 30% of total daily caloric intake, a figure which is suggested by the US FDA. This will, however, depend on the age, sex, and activity level of a person.
Some Things To ConsiderThe jury is still out when it comes to finding the optimal amount of protein that is required to have good health. When it comes to cardiovascular health and weight loss, these figures are controversial.
Before you start increasing the daily intake of protein, consider a few essential things.
Firstly, more protein does not mean eating more meat. While poultry, beef, eggs, milk, cheese do provide high-quality protein, these can also be derived from plant foods, which include beans, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and vegetables.
Secondly, not just proteins, you also need to focus on the entire package. Besides protein, the food also provides vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and other nutrients.
Aim for sources that are rich in other nutrients and contain a lesser amount of saturated and processed fat and carbohydrates.
Finally, while you increase protein, you tend to eat a lesser amount of other vital components to keep things in balance. This switch can affect your nutrition, for good or for worse.
For instance, eating protein-rich food while avoiding refined carbohydrates is a good thing, but avoiding carbs altogether is not good. Remember, it’s the entire package that counts, not just one aspect.
If you are aiming for weight loss and trying a protein-rich diet, then it is reasonable, but it’s not the only thing. Good nutritious food and adequate physical activity are also as important.
Good Sources of ProteinGiven below are some excellent sources of protein.
Some healthy animal protein sources
- Chicken (skin removed)
- Bison (buffalo meat)
- Lean cuts of pork and beef – round, tenderloin, top sirloin
Some healthy plant-based protein sources
- Beans (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, split peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, among others)
- Seeds and nuts (almonds, mixed nuts, hazelnuts, peanut butter, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, among others). Nut have high-fat content, so moderation is the key
- Soy protein products (tempeh, tofu, among others.)
- Low-fat dairy products
In ConclusionWhile having adequate protein is essential for proper growth and development, healthcare experts, over the past few years, have started emphasizing the need to shift away from fixing numbers for fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
They insist on having a more well-rounded diet that is rich in protein instead of being fixated on specific amounts.