How Much Protein Do We Actually need?
Being vegetarian, I'm often asked by concerned meat-eaters how I manage to get enough protein from my diet of leafs and greens! It's seems its not just gym buffs and weight lifters who are obssesed with how much protein we actually need. So I looked into this hot topic to come up with some definitive answers:
How much protein do we actually need?
The NHS recommend we eat 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight - that's around 45g per day for the average woman, and 55g per day for the average man. If you're pregnant, breast-feeding or recovering from illness, you may need more. The good news though is that most of us - even vegetarians and vegans - eat at least this much protein every day. If you're looking to gain muscle mass by weight training or doing other resistance exercises, then you'll need to up the amount of protein you eat. But for the average Joe, there's little to worry about. In fact, eating too much protein can do more harm than good.
Why do we need protein, anyway?
Protein is essential for the body's growth and repair. Protein is made from amino acids, some of which are created by our bodies, and some of which can only be sourced from food. Experts say the best way to ensure we get all the amino acids we need is by eating a healthy, balanced diet - not by reaching for supplements or trendy protein powders. If you don't eat meat, quinoa and soy are the only plant-based foods that contain complete amino acids, though seperate amino acids can be found in lots of different foods such as nuts, seeds and beans.
Are you sure I don't need to eat more protein?
Piling a load of grilled chicken on your plate for every meal can actually do more harm than good. Only 20g of protein can be processed and used at a time, so eating your daily recommended amount in one sitting may actually be a waste as only a fraction will be utilised - the rest simply gets stored as fat and excreted. Some studies have linked the over-consumption of protein with diseases such as diabetes and diabetes, though the research seems to be in-conclusive. Regardless, eating too much processed meat definitely isn't good for us, due to the high levels of saturated fat and salt. For this reason, many nutritionists and health experts believe meal plans like the Atkins Diet can do more harm than good.
Provided we're eating a healthy balanced diet based around meat, fish, beans, nuts, dairy products, wholemeal and wholegrain foods, most of us will be getting more than enough protein. If you're still not sure and would like reassurance - the best course of action would be to consult your doctor or a nutritionist for specialist advice.
mouth-watering to share?