It’s almost impossible to sift through the seemingly millions of diet recommendations today. Often, “diets” are protein restricted, protein excessive or promote specific products that don’t focus on whole food at all. It’s no wonder that many of us are confused, concerned and downright frustrated!
Welcome to Part I of a 2 part series on how to make protein a healthy part of your diet.
What is protein?
Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients present in the foods we eat each day. (Like Van’s Power Grain waffles
!) Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein provides energy (calories – 4 per gram) and other important materials used by the body.
Small building blocks called amino acids make up proteins. Think of amino acids as Legos – they combine together, in different sequences, to build proteins. The sequences our bodies can create on their own are known as non-essential amino acids. The rest – essential amino acids – we need to get from the foods we eat.
Why do we need protein?
Every single cell in our bodies requires protein. Not only does it build and repair our 600 plus muscles, protein provides energy, aids in fluid balance and helps to keep our immune systems in tip top shape. This happens 24 hours a day/7 days a week for our entire life!
What happens when you don’t have enough protein OR you have too much?
Without enough protein, the body breaks down its own muscle to provide protein. This can wreak havoc on our muscles, bones and many metabolic processes. But, eat too much protein, and the body essentially wastes it. The body can’t use it properly, so it’s broken down and some components wind up as fat stores. Others are flushed down the toilet.
How much protein do we need?
From babies to adults to both men and women, protein is necessary in all diets. How much you need depends on body weight and age. For most of us, a little simple math can determine the right amount of protein. Ready?
1. First, convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by dividing your total weight by 2.2.
2. Next, multiply weight in kilograms by 0.8. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein for adults is 0.8 g/kilogram body weight/day.
A 150 pound person, for example, needs 55 grams of protein per day. (150/2.2=68.2. 68.2 x .8=55.)
A few groups have different protein needs. Children, women who are pregnant/lactating, some disease sufferers or certain athletes may have increased protein needs. If you fall into one of these groups, please check with your doctor or Registered Dietitian
to determine your individual protein needs.
Still confused about protein? Stay tuned for the 411 on protein sources in my next blog!
As a registered dietitian and a mom, Robin provides the tools and resources families need for healthy, fast and stress-free meal times.