Nutrition Basics of Protein November 14 2013

Protein serves many functions in the body, and is an important component of every cell you’ve got.  It is the building block of muscle, bone, skin, blood, and other tissues.  Protein is a macronutrient, meaning we need it in large amounts, and is utilized to build, maintain, and repair tissues, and also aids in production of enzymes. Enzymes help facilitate many of the chemical reactions within the body.  Proteins are also integral in production ofhormones like insulin, thyroid hormones, estrogen, and testosterone.  Our bodies use protein for energy, as well.  Because protein is essential to the important body functions listed above, it’s necessary to consume enough of the other macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates, so that all the protein intake is not used for energy.

“Macro,” as stated above, refers to the use of something in large quantities.  The body needs relatively large amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  Fats and carbs are stored readily in the body and can be accessed at any time.  Protein, on the other hand, is not stored in the body and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.  That’s why it’s important to get adequate daily amounts.  Lack of protein decreases lean muscle mass, decreases immunity, and leads to a weaker heart and respiratory system.

Protein in our diet can be plant-based (soy, nuts, grains, and beans) or animal-based (meat, poultry, dairy, eggs).  While meat is a good way to consume protein, there are plant-based foods that are also packed with high levels of protein.  Plant-based protein does not have as much fat as sources found in animals, so for long-term health getting protein from vegetables, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds, grains like quinoa and couscous is a much better option.

Other plant-based sources include: almonds, dark leafy green vegetables (parsley, spinach, kale, cabbage), sprouts, avocado, broccoli, pumpkin and sesame seeds, hemp seeds, spirulina, and more.

After reviewing information from MayoClinic.com, it is suggested that you eat 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories from protein.  Based on 2000-calorie diet scheme, this is about 200 to 700 calories of protein, or about 50 to 175 grams.  If you like, you can figure out your specific protein intake during a wellness profile according to your body’s requirements.

Are you getting enough protein in your diet?  You owe it to your cells to make sure!