Without eating enough protein, we cannot survive.
Proteins are the main building blocks of the body. As a general rule, 10 – 35% of our daily calories should come from protein. The body cannot store protein for future use, so we must maintain a steady/daily intake.
All of our body parts: cells, tissues, muscles and organs need protein in order to function properly. The Institute of Medicine suggests that adults should consume 10 to 35 percent of their total calorie intake from protein. Protein is necessary for:
- Growth and development (in children)
- Muscle growth
- Regeneration and repair of body part components
- Healthy skin, organs and glands
- Maintenance of fluid balance
- Developing antibodies to guard against infection
- Creating a proper balance of blood acidity and alkalinity.
When we consume protein, it is digested and ‘broken down’ into its component amino acids. These amino acids are then used by the body to replace and repair cells, tissues, muscle and organs. Consuming too little protein can lead to loss of muscle mass, stunted growth, fatigue and changes in skin and hair.
Protein also makes us feel more full/satiated after a meal. Compared to fat and carbs, protein offers more “bang for your buck” when it comes to filling you up and feeling satisfied after eating. People who don’t eat enough protein may actually eat more food and still have an appetite afterwards.
How much protein do we need to ingest every day? Not everyone needs the same amount. Protein requirements depend on:
Age & Gender
- Babies need about 10 grams per day.
- School-age kids need 19-34 grams per day.
- Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
- Teenage girls need 46 grams per day.
- Adult men need about 56 grams a day (about 56 grams per day, 0.7 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body; active men will require more).
- Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding). However, actual protein requirements may be higher depending on a woman’s needs and activity level
- Seniors, the elderly and those recovering from injuries need to increase their protein intake. (Increased protein consumption can help to improve strength, muscle mass, immune capability, bone health, blood pressure and wound-healing.
Body size – larger body size require extra protein intake to maintain good health.
Activity level – coincides with how much energy you burn in a day. (Athletes require more protein than non-athletes, and the amount of protein needed is based on size and activity level.)
Choose healthy proteins: lean meat, poultry, low-fat dairy, fish, soybeans, quinoa; beans, peas, nuts and seeds (eat a variety of these); tofu; eggs; grains, some vegetables, and some fruits (provide small amounts of protein). Those following a vegetarian diet, getting enough protein can be a little difficult. Consume protein sources like beans, eggs, quinoa and tofu, in healthy vegetarian recipes.