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Get the Scoop on Protein

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Protein is a hot topic these days. Just ask Oprah and the dozens of other celebrities who credit their high-protein eating with reduced body fat, making them leaner and sexier.

Protein is a hot topic these days. Just ask Oprah and the dozens of other celebrities who credit their high-protein eating with reduced body fat, making them leaner and sexier. Once the main staple of bodybuilders, the world of protein powders has gone mainstream and protein foods have secured top billing as the preferred weight-loss food group.

This popular appetite for increased dietary protein has been fuelled by the many books extolling the benefits of eating more protein and essential fats while reducing refined carbohydrates. The Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, and other best-selling diet books tout the advantages of eating more protein for more reasons than weight loss: diabetes control and prevention, mood stabilization, and sexual virility are among the many other health claims made by protein advocates. Critics of the high protein craze point out that calorie restriction remains one of the constant determining factors of weight loss success.

The Power of Protein

The physiological importance of protein is reflected in the origin of the word itself. Originating from the Greek root word “protos,” protein’s literal translation is “to come first; of the first rank,” which it certainly does. Protein is essential to the nearly 300 billion cells in our bodies that must rebuild every day. Thus, we need to eat protein every day to ensure healthy functioning of our body’s immune system; adequate production of hormones and enzymes; and optimal repair and development of muscle, bone, and other body tissues.

Everyone has individual protein requirements based on their general state of health and activity level. Minimum requirements set by the World Health Organization are .75 grams of good quality protein per kilogram of body weight. This means that a person with a normal weight of 70 kg needs about 50 g of protein in the daily diet. These minimum levels do not take into account the increased protein requirements of many people of all ages.

Protein Sources

Not long ago, only animal sources of protein were considered complete and valuable. We were encouraged to eat meat, eggs, and dairy products at virtually every meal.
Today however, nutritional scientists recognize the value of vegetable source proteins from soy foods, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), nuts, and seeds. Two or more vegetable-source proteins in combination can provide all the essential amino acids and represent a complete protein.

Balanced Eating

Too much protein, especially without the benefits of fresh leafy green vegetables, multi-coloured vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits can be costly to health. When our bodies have to break down excess protein, it increases production of urea, a waste product that must be eliminated through urine. This can lead to an over-acid system, frequent urination, and the risk of dehydration. Anyone who has increased their protein intake must also increase their intake of leafy green vegetables to help alkalize their system.
Calorie restriction based on a balanced macronutrient diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fat remains the only scientifically proven method of maintaining health and longevity. Dietary information will always vary but one simple approach rings true: Eat less of a well-balanced diet and live a longer, healthier life.

Rebuild With Protein

Controlled studies have shown that many individuals require increased protein intake if they are:

  • engaging in regular physical exercise
  • performing as endurance athletes
  • recovering from an illness or injury
  • restricting carbohydrate intake
  • weight-training
  • building lean body mass and reducing body fat
  • experiencing muscle weakness
  • children engaging in regular sports
  • children experiencing low growth rates

Getting your 50 grams daily

We should all be eating .75 grams of good quality protein per kilogram of body weight. Try these sources to help measure up.

Protein sourceAmountGrams of protein

Chicken, meat only, cooked

1 cup (140 g)

42.59 g

Fish, salmon, cooked1/2 fillet (155 g)

42.33 g

Turkey, meat only, cooked1 cup (140 g)

41.05 g

Cheese, 2% low-fat cottage1 cup (226 g)

31.05 g

Soybeans, boiled1 cup (172 g)

28.62 g

Cheese, 2% low-fat cottage1 cup (226 g)

31.05 g

Soybeans, boiled

1 cup (172 g)

28.62 g

Whey protein isolate

3 tbsp (20 g)

18 g

Beans, red kidney, red, canned1 cup (256 g)

13.44 g

Yogurt, plain skim milk

1 cup (240 g)

13.01 g

Chickpeas, cooked

1 cup (250 ml)

11.88 g

Tofu1 piece (120 g)

7.86 g

Egg

1 extra large (58 g)

7.30 g

Cheese, cheddar

1 oz (28.35 g)

7.06 g

Nuts, almonds24 nuts (28.35 g)

6.03 g

Peanut butter

1 tbsp (16 g)

4 g

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

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