Protein - The Right Amount For You

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    Sep 25, 2012
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“Eat it up, it's full of protein!” was a commonly heard exhortation from my mom when I was a kid. How come the foods which were full of proteins were always the nasty ones? Did I really have to eat that yucky liver to grow up big and strong?

Now we know a bit better, and protein comes is so many bewildering forms it's hard to choose. Thankfully many protein packed foods are delicious, nutritious, and easy on the calories too.

Look up protein in Wikipedia, and you will likely go cross eyed from all the biochemical information there. These are seriously complex substances, so it's no wonder that there is a certain amount of mystery surrounding them. But in simple terms, proteins are part of every single cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. You can find protein in meat, dairy, fish, nuts, legumes (that's dried peas and beans), eggs, tofu and some grains, vegetables, seeds and fruits.

So best rush out and eat lots of protein, right? Well, wrong actually. Most people in north America eat plenty of protein in their day to day diet. But there is a bit more to the story than that.

Proteins are made up of amino acids – twenty of them in all. Some of these our bodies are able to produce for themselves, others we have to get in our food. It's these which are known as essential amino acids – the ones you should be paying extra attention to. And which foods provide ALL of the essential amino acids – yes – those ones which your mom made you eat – the animal products, eggs, fish, meat, poultry and cheese.

Incomplete protein sources, for example, beans, grains and vegetables, don't contain all of those top class essential amino acids. If you're eating a veggie or vegan diet, you've got to know your food – so you can make sure you're getting all the kinds of amino acids your body needs.

So how much protein do you need? A grown adult woman needs 46 grams, a man needs 56 grams. Teens 14 to 18 years old need almost as much – when the body is still growing, it needs those proteins to build strong muscles, good skin and healthy organs.

All food has calories, so if you are on a calorie controlled diet, just make sure that you are getting enough protein. A diet of lettuce, grapefruit and water will make you sicker than you could believe, and not lovely to look at at all. When figuring out what you are going to eat, choose the protein first. If you are a meat eater, pick chicken, fish, cottage cheese and the like, for plenty of protein accompanied by sensible amounts of calories – then add grains for roughage (and more protein) fruit, veggies and the odd treat. If you're a veggie or a vegan, you need to be more careful, veggies can go for eggs and cottage cheese, vegans, check out tofu, bean, rice and the like. Good for you for keeping to your principles, but make sure you're looking after that environmentally friendly bod at the same time!

For an adult, the protein mainly works to repair your body, it's the maintenance crew if you like. If you're involved in regular sports, especially extreme sports, body building and hard-on-the-muscles stuff like that, you'll probably want to be eating more protein, and your trainer should be giving you good nutritional advice. But for those of who live on Planet Normal, there is probably not too much need to stress out – so long as you are getting your protein from a good variety of sources you'll are probably getting enough.

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