PROTEIN (Pt. 1) – why we need it, where to get it and how much…

Good morning lovely people, happy new blog post day ❤️

Today I’m going to be sharing some insight into a MACRONUTRIENT that is talked about a lot however may not be fully understood – PROTEIN

Despite many food brands advertising high protein this and plant protein that, many consumers perhaps do not actually understand what this is, what it does in our bodies, why we need it, where to get it and how much protein we actually need.

While you don’t need to know the answer to every single one of the questions I’ve put forward here, having some more insight on the topic, will help us make more informed decisions that will in turn affect our health. Misinformation is definitely abundant in the media today, so I’m going to try to clear some things up!

High protein chickpea pancakes topped with tzatziki (Greek yog) and veggies

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

Protein is one of the three MACRONUTRIENTS that our bodies need to survive. The term MACROnutrients implies that we need a relatively large amount of this substance in our diet. The other two macronutrients are carbohydrates and fats.

Having said that, most people in the developed world consume sufficient protein within their diet. Unless you follow a very strict diet and / or eliminate entire food groups, acquiring enough protein should not be an issue.

If, for whatever reason, one is following a strict diet or eliminating entire food groups, consuming sufficient protein can still be achieved. The important thing to remember is that most plant foods which are high in protein do not contain all the essential amino acids while all animal meat and dairy do contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body. Therefore, animal foods are considered complete protein while most plant protein sources are incomplete proteins – meaning that they do not contain all the essential amino acids. The plant protein exceptions are soy and soy based products (ex: tofu, tempeh and edamame).

To ensure that you obtain all the essential amino acids from plant based sources, all you have to do is make sure that you mix your protein sources. The amino acids (building blocks of protein) present in beans are different to those in lentils or grains. (Yes, grains do contain protein too!) Therefore, making sure you obtain a portion of both beans and grains let’s say for any given meal will help avoid this problem. (More details given below)

WHY WE NEED PROTEIN

Protein makes part of every cell of our body, in fact, after water, protein is the most abundant compound within our bodies. From cell membrane, to muscle, to bones, hair, nails, skin and everything in between, protein is a part of every single cell within our bodies and has both a structural and bio-chemical role. Therefore, the importance of this nutrient within our diet cannot be overstated.

Growing kids do need to have a considerable percentage of the calories within their daily diet to come from protein. This is very important for their growth and development.

Similarly, pregnant women also require a larger amount of protein for the health, growth and development of their unborn child and their own protein needs which would be heightened presently.

Finally, athletes or people who engage in intense physical exercise also have increased protein needs. This is important for muscle repair and growth – muscle is torn during intense physical exercise and repaired through rest and sufficient nourishment which must include a relatively high amount of protein.

PLANTBASED protein power – falafel salad topped w slivered almonds and hummus

WHERE CAN WE GET PROTEIN

As I mentioned briefly above, protein is made up of individual strand like structures know as Amino Acids; the name and structure is not really important. However, I am mentioning amino acids here because they are of relevance in that not all protein-rich foods contain a full amino acid profile. Meaning, there are 10 essential amino acids, some foods contain 8, others 6 – these foods are know as incomplete protein sources. Meanwhile, foods that contain all 10 essential amino acids are know as complete proteins. ALL animal foods – meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs – are COMPLETE proteins, in that they contain all essential amino acids. Plant protein sources tend to be INCOMPLETE proteins; i.e. containing some but not all the essential amino acids.

This does not mean that we MUST consume animal foods to ensure we get sufficient protein. What is important to remember is that the amino acids (or type of protein) found is beans is different to that found in whole grains which is again different to that found in nuts which is again different to that found in lentils.

The one thing I’d like you to take away from this explanations is that VARIETY IN YOUR DIET IS KEY! For everything from sufficient protein, to ensure getting sufficient nutrients from different food sources, to finding balance between health and enjoyment and so much more

HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO WE NEED?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

~Before you start ramping up your daily protein intake, there are a few important things to consider. For one, don’t read “get more protein” as “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables. The table below provides some healthier sources of protein.

It’s also important to consider the protein “package” — the fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that invariably come along with protein. Aim for protein sources low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates and rich in many nutrients.~

read more about several studies conducted on the topic here https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

There is no clear cut answer as to how much protein we actually need – or there is certainly no wide agreement between food, medical and nutrition scientist. The reality is that we may very well need more protein than we are getting but studies also clearly show that we consume far too many animal foods in the developed world on average.

Together with increased protein, high consumption of animal foods also increases cholesterol levels, illness and disease, increased strain on the environment and increased incidence on the BIGGEST KILLER the world over – heart disease.

Therefore, the importance increasing our intake of PLANTS and PLANTBASED PROTEIN cannot be overstated. This increase in the consumption of plants will lower cholesterol, increase fibre, improve gut health, improve hearth heath, lead to lower body weight, increase vitamin and mineral intake and so much more!

I will be sharing how to do this in my PROTEIN (Pt.2) blog post next week!

High protein plant sources

That’s it from me for today – I’ll be back with a new blog post Every Single Saturday 🙂

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Thank you for taking the time to be here and read this ❤️

Until next week, be well xXx

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