Protein is absolutely essential to good health. Every cell in your body uses it, and you need it to grow and develop. Even when you’re older and all your developing is done, you need protein for basic human functions. Are you getting enough of it in your diet?
The Role of Protein
Here’s a fun fact. The word “protein” is an extension of the original Greek word protos, which means “first.” Is it a coincidence? Many people don’t think so. If you were to create a hierarchy of all the nutrients your body needs, this one would be somewhere in the top tier.
Your body this powerful nutrient to…
- Use as energy
- Build/repair cells and tissue
- Make hair, skin, nails, muscle, bone and organs
- Produce hormones and enzymes
- Manage your immune response
- And much, much more
We hear a lot of conflicting information about protein. Some say the average American eats too much of it, especially those who consume large amounts of meat. Others say we aren’t eating enough – or at the very least, we’re eating the bare minimum.
Truthfully, consumption varies greatly with each person. This is especially true when we consider the various diets that exist for weight-loss and specific health conditions. Nonetheless, everyone has their own individual Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). This number is based on factors like your age, gender, weight, height and activity level.
A good rule of thumb is to multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. You can also use this online calculator that gives you recommendations for protein, carbs, fiber, fat, water and more.
Generally speaking, the average American needs at least 50 grams of protein daily. Most packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts Label that lists the amount (in grams) inside. However, if a food is labeled as a “high” or “low” source of protein, it is required to also provide a Percent Daily Value (%DV). This is the standard recommended amount per day.
Protein Sources and Healthy Tips
Protein is found in a variety of foods including meat and poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, dairy products, soy products and eggs. Even grains and vegetables carry it in small amounts. The majority of Americans say they get most of it from meat, but the greatest sources vary among regions around the world.
Healthy Tips for Eating More Protein:
- Eat a variety of different foods.
- Instead of processed meat or seafood, try it fresh.
- Replace some protein from meat with that from seafood and plant-based foods.
- Rather than full-fat dairy products, opt for skim or low-fat.
- Cut or drain the fat from meat before eating.
- Try your proteins grilled, baked, pan-cooked or steamed.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
To learn more about incorporating protein into a healthy diet, CLICK HERE for advice from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).