Protein is necessary for optimal health - there's no doubt about that. It is used by the body to build and repair tissues, as well as to manufacture enzymes, hormones and bodily chemicals. It is also an essential building block of bones, muscles, skin, blood and cartilage. The hair and nails, to, are made mostly out of this nutrient.
Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is also a macronutrient. This means that the body requires large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, are called micronutrients because they are required in only small amounts. Since protein is not stored in the body like fat and carbohydrates, a person needs to regularly consume food sources rich in this nutrient to keep up with the recommended daily amount. This is the reason why people assume that it's best to eat protein-rich foods all day long. But anything in excess can be bad so it's better we find out how much protein do we really need.
How Much is Enough?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, you need to get 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein food sources. That is about 56 grams of protein for men and 46 grams for women.
- A 3-ounce piece of meat already contains 21 grams of protein.
- The usual 8-ounce meat that you eat may have more than 50 grams of protein, which is also way past your recommended daily intake.
Other food sources of protein include
- yogurt (8 ounce has 11 grams protein)
- milk (one cup has 8 grams)
- dry beans (one cup has 16 grams)
So if you do the math, you know how much of this and that you can eat for a day to meet your recommended daily allowance of protein.
Ideal Food Sources
Apart from those mentioned above, there are plenty other food sources of protein. The important trick is that you choose lean forms such as
- poultry without skin
- red meat with less marbling
- non-fat or low-fat dairy products
It would also be a good idea to get protein from
- edamame or green soybeans
- roasted soynuts
- meat substitutes such as veggie burgers
- beans and whole grains
- black beans
Stay away from processed meat such as luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs and ham.
People With Special Protein Needs
There are some people who need more protein than others.
- For one, pregnant and breastfeeding women need 10 to 20 grams more. So that's about 56 to 66 grams of protein. It's advisable that these women get their protein from low-fat dairy products, which also contain calcium and vitamin D that are essential for bone health for both the mother and child.
- Athletes also need more protein. In fact, they are recommended to take in 50 percent more protein than usual.
- Then there are also the vegans and vegetarians. Vegans, in particular, don't eat any animal product so they have to depend on nuts and seeds for their protein needs. However, plant-based proteins lack amino-acid building blocks. This can be resolved by combining several plant proteins to get the necessary amount of amino acids.