I’ve been stuck as to what to write for a while. Every time I think of a topic (really interesting, complex and huge topics) I realize that it would take days and weeks and research and… quite frankly, I just don’t have the time.
I was reading a timely posts about blogging on a wellness professionals business forum, and was reminded that patients often want to know the basics. So often I forget that my patients don’t have the same baseline information as I do and that reviewing the basics ensures that we are speaking the same language when it comes to health. And so, I am starting the What is…? series to review the basics – of nutrition, of exercise, of supplements, of… well, lots of stuff.
I do a lot of nutritional counselling in my practice and am surprised how often I come across someone with very little knowledge of the basics. But really, why should I be surprised? Nutrition is not something that we are really taught. Unless a person has an interest in the topic they might not know more than the commercials are telling them (i.e. that milk makes strong bones, or that orange juice is a fruit).And so, I am starting my new back to basics series with nutrition. The first half dozen What is…? posts will be about food.
What is PROTEIN?
Protein is the main building block in the body. It is made of a series of amino acids (the very tiniest and basic building blocks) that is broken down to its individual components. It is used to build muscles, make immune cells, maintain strong bones, make blood cells and bind sex hormones. It is an essential nutrient (meaning you’ll die if you don’t get enough, unlike, say, chocolate, which is a nonessential nutrient).
Protein is particularly high is animal products like beef, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt; and many vegetable products like legumes, beans, soy, nuts/seeds, quinoa and other grains.
Different people need different amounts of protein (a pregnant woman needs more that a non pregnant woman, an athlete more than someone with less physical activity), but a target of 30% of your calories is average. Another way to figure it out is to take your weight in kilograms and multiply it by 0.8-1.0. That equals your daily protein needs in grams. So, a 70 kg person will need (70 x 0.8=56) approximately 56-70 grams of protein per day. Vegetarians need more because vegetable sources of protein are harder to digest and less bioavailable. Other groups that may benefit from a higher protein diet are: older persons at risk for osteoporosis, women with PCOS, patients with Type 2 diabetes and those looking to lose weight.
Here are some examples of the protein content of common foods:
- chicken breast, 100g, approximately 1/2 a breast – 27 g
- beef, 100g – 22 g
- salmon, 100g – 20 g
- egg – 6 g
- tofu, 100g – 8 g
- chickpeas, 1/2 cup – 19 g
- quinoa, 1/3 cup – 3 g
- cooked oats, 1 cup – 6 g
- protein powder, 1 scoop – 25 g
So, that 56-70 grams? Breakfast – oatmeal/berries and two eggs (18 g), lunch – quinoa, chickpea and vegetable salad (22g), dinner – chicken and vegetable stirfry (27 g).
Can I have too much protein? Absolutely. Breaking protein down is hard on the body and all of those amino acids floating around can put the system into an acidic state. This can be hard on the kidneys and predispose someone to more serious illnesses. Balancing a high protein diet with lots of alkalizing foods (like vegetables and fruits) is a great way to mitigate this effect. Very high protein diets are often used by weight lifters and crash dieters but I am really not a fan.
How can I tell if I’m getting enough protein? Are you tired, feel weak, catch cold easily, a picky eater, skip meals? You may be protein deficient. Using a nutrition tracker like Myfitnesspal for a few weeks is a great way to see what your average protein intake is.
Have a topic that you’d like to review the basics of? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to get to it.