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Super Nutrient of the Week: Protein
Three nutrients make up the macronutrients that we must include in our diets daily--carbohydrates, protein, and fat. All have important functions and work synergistically in our bodies. While carbohydrates and fat are both necessary to include daily, protein is another essential nutrient. Protein is necessary for:
- Brain function
- Building new cells
- Immune cell function
- Maintaining lean tissue
- Synthesizing new protein
- Healthy skin, hair, and nails
Protein is an essential nutrient, but you may not need quite as much as you think. Are you confused about how much you need or how much is too much? Let me set the record straight with a few basic rules and tips.
Protein Basics: How Much is Too Much?
With all the fad diets and the high protein diet hype, many people feel as if they do not get enough protein in their daily diets.
As a general rule, the average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs, or 68 kg (one kilogram = 2.2 pounds), you would need a minimum of 54 grams of protein for the day. A lot of foods like animal products, beans, dairy products, and grains contain protein, so it’s pretty simple to get in the recommended amount of protein you need for the day. If you exercise regularly, you may need more like 1-1.5 grams per kg of body weight.
Many people have asked the question “can you eat too much protein?” It can potentially harmful, especially if you have kidney or liver disease. These are the two organs that metabolize protein, so if you have either make sure you talk to your doctor or dietitian to get specific recommendations. As a rule of thumb, you really don’t need more than 1 gram per pound of body weight, even if you’re lifting heavy weights on a regular basis.
What are the best sources of protein?
There are two sources of protein: animal proteins and plant proteins. Animal proteins are:
If you’re a vegetarian you can get plenty of protein by eating:
Be sure to include lean sources of protein with your meals and snacks daily. Protein can also be used from a weight management standpoint helping to keep you full longer. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates so you won’t feel like you are eating every hour on the hour!