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It's common to be concerned with whether or not you’re eating enough protein for good health. The truth of the matter is we
don’t need as much as you might think and it’s very easy to get your daily
protein, even if you’re a vegetarian. One thing is for certain, protein
deficiency is not a problem in the healthy American population.
Protein was the first substance to be recognized as a vital
part of living tissue. Dietary proteins are involved in building and maintaining
body tissues and other special metabolic functions. As an energy source,
proteins are equivalent to carbohydrates in providing the same calories per
gram. Proteins play a major role not only in the structure of our body tissues,
but also in the formation of enzymes and the function of the immune system. They
also aid in the transportation of certain vitamins and minerals as well as
cholesterol and triglycerides.
When it comes to dietary protein, there are differences is
the quality and digestibility of the different types. For example, the protein
in eggs has a higher digestibility than that in soy flour. Not to worry though,
protein is in many foods that we eat on a regular basis, so as long as you choose a
balanced eating plan to supply you with the nutrients you need, you don’t have
Meats: chicken, fish, beef, pork, seafood
Meat alternatives: soy beans, nuts, legumes, textured soy
protein, tofu, eggs
Dairy: milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese
Grains, some vegetables and fruits provide little protein in
comparison to the other groups, but it all adds up in the end.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) suggest 10-35% of
our calories come from protein. Based on a 2,000 calories diet, 50 grams of
protein a day would represent the low end of that recommendation. For the
healthy adult, another way to calculate your needs is to multiply your body
weight (in kilograms) by 0.8 grams. To covert your body weight from pounds to
kilograms simply divide your weight by 2.2.
Weight (in kilograms) x 0.8 grams = protein requirements per
3-ounce piece of chicken has 21 grams
1 cup of milk (skim, low fat or whole) has 8 grams
1 egg has 7 grams
1 4-ounce cup of Greek yogurt has 10 grams
½ cup beans has 6 grams
If you just ate the 5 items listed above, you’d already
reach your minimum protein goal and that doesn’t include all the other items
that are lower in protein, but still contribute to your goal.
Breakfast: 1 egg, toast & fruit -- 10 grams
Snack: 1 banana -- 1 gram
Lunch: 2 ounce turkey & cheese wrap -- 25 grams
Snack: 1 oz mixed nuts -- 5 grams
Dinner: 3 oz salmon, baked potato and salad -- 21 grams
Total: 62 grams of protein
So the bottom line is eat a variety of foods, three meals a
day and don’t worry about counting those protein grams. To learn more about your calorie needs and additional information on ways to get your daily protein, go to My Pyramid where you’ll enter your age, sex,
height, weight, and activity level.
Photo 1: Stephen Firmender, Dreamstime
Photo 2: Melinda Nagy, Dreamstime
Photo 3: Dvarg Vasiliy, Dreamstime