From a very young age, we are taught to consume meals that are healthy and balanced in nature, in order to stay strong and fit in the long run. Such meals are enriched with essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates, etc. Earlier, not much importance was thrown at what proportions these nutrients need to be consumed and how often. But times have changed and so have the eating preferences of people. This article throws light on the essential nutrient called protein. Read on to learn all that you need to know about it – how much of protein intake one should indulge in, to what’s some of the best natural sources of protein.
What Is Protein
Our science textbooks are our first encyclopedia when it comes to empowering ourselves with the knowledge of what the human body is comprised of and what it needs in order to stay healthy, fit and strong. And time and again one comes across the term ‘protein’ not only as an essential part of our cells but also as an essential nutrient that needs to be added to one’s diet without fail. For this very reason, proteins are also known as the building blocks of life. Made up of thousands of amino acids attached together in the form of a long chain, proteins are complex molecules that are quintessential for our survival. Detailed studies have established that over 20 different types of amino acids are combined together to form a single protein. So, in order to remain healthy, our body is continuously in need of essential protein intake and the best way to replenish our body with the required amount of protein is through food sources. It is then broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are subdivided into three categories as essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditional amino acids. While the human body produces some of the amino acids, others need to be supplied to it through the food we consume.
Among the various functions that proteins carry out in the human body, some that need mentioning are as below:
- Proteins are responsible for the structure and smooth functioning of the body tissues
- They also regulate the various tissues in our body
- They perform most of the functions of the cells
- They form the structure, functioning, and regulation of the various organs in our body
- They repair cells as well as make new ones.
- Protein is essential for the development and growth of children and pregnant women.
Apart from this they act as a messenger between organs, provide antibodies to the body, produce enzymes, act as a source of storage, etc. The dietary protein requirement of a healthy adult is 10% to 35% of the total calorie that is consumed per day.
Importance Of Protein In One’s Diet
Proteins are rightfully known as a macronutrient simply because our body needs large amounts of it to stay fit and in shape, not to forget, healthy too. It acts as the fuel that makes our bodies strong and powerful in the long run. Alongside the above-mentioned functions of protein, why our body needs the right amount of protein intake is because:
- Proteins help in quickening the process of our body’s ability to heal post a vigorous workout session.
- It helps to quickly heal in case of injuries and wounds
- Proteins help to retain our muscles and muscle strength
- It helps to get rid of hunger pangs and in this way, it indirectly assists us in weight loss
- Protein intake helps to keep our weight gain woes at bay as it assists in maintaining a healthy weight
- They help to regulate our hormones
- It is important for the sheen and structure of our hair, nails, and skin
- They act as a carrier of nutrients throughout the body through the protein component present in the RBCs.
- Studies have shown that a protein-rich diet is beneficial for those with high blood pressure and diabetes.
How Much Protein Needs To Be Consumed
Protein is a most essential macronutrient however, just as with all nutrients, protein intake should also be done moderately and sensibly. Just as with protein deficiency, our overall health dwindles, so does going overboard with protein consumption have adverse effects like weight gain, which subsequently cause illnesses related to the same. Studies have pointed out that an average male should consume no more than 56 gms of protein per day and for women no more than 46 grams per day. In terms of calories, this would mean that over 35% of one’s calories intake should come from consuming proteins.
However, not everyone should consume protein in the same quantity. Quality of consumption also plays a vital role in this regard and so, various factors determine how much protein a person should consume per day. Listed below are some of those:
- Age of the person
- Gender of the person
- The intensity of daily workout done
- Physique and built of the person
- Bodyweight and muscle mass
- Condition like pregnancy
- Underlying health conditions if any
Since animals and human beings have a similar tissue structure, consuming animal-based protein food like fish, eggs, meat, dairy, etc for your protein intake sufficiently supplies the body with just the right type of amino acids needed by the human body for building and repair. Those who follow a vegan diet need to make sure they consume slightly more quantity of protein than those who consume animal-based protein food to ensure sufficient protein intake. Protein can also be consumed as supplements and this is most often done by sportspeople and those who do vigorous daily workout sessions; in this sense, the amount of protein intake equals to about 0.5-0.65 gms per pound of body weight. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also need to consume a sufficient amount of protein per day to suffice the needs of both the mother as well as the child which is up to 1.1 gms per kg on an average for pregnant women and about 0.59 gms per kg for breastfeeding women. Older people also need to consume more protein in their diet which should be proportionate to about 0.45 – 0.6 gms per pound per their body weight. Also, it is good to be informed that those with pre-existing kidney problems better consume protein in moderation.
Best Natural Sources Of Protein
Listed below are some healthy sources of protein that people need to add to their diet:
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios
- Lentils like green lentils, brown lentils, etc
- Beans like kidney beans, navy beans, soybeans, black beans etc
- Dairy like cheese, yogurt, milk, etc
- Vegetables like potato, brussel sprouts, asparagus
- Fruits like jackfruit, avocado, berries and others
- Seafood like salmon, sardines, prawns, cod and others
- Egg whites
- Lean meat like chicken and turkey without the skin on
Protein-rich food can be consumed all day long but it is good to remember to do so in moderation. In fact, a diet rich in protein and less in carbs can even assist in weight loss. However, to heartily enjoy your protein meal it would be a wise choice to embrace regular workouts and then indulge guiltlessly. Remember, the more calories you burn during your workouts the more protein your body demands and vise versa. So, chuck your sedentary lifestyle, eat your proteins and stay fit and healthy in the long run.