What’s the first thought that pops up into your mind when you think about protein? Can you think of an advertisement for a protein supplement, that promises you huge muscular mass improvement? Or maybe the last trendy diet you have read about in the newspaper, or maybe you’ve heard so often about protein that you’re thinking that you may not consume enough protein in your diet. It seems that they are so good since everyone is talking about them. The truth about protein is that most of us consume protein daily, often in larger quantities than we need, as proteins are found in all foods that we consume. But, what is protein?
Here we will help you understand better what is protein, what types of protein are already included in your regular diet, what happens if you eat too much protein, and, in addition, you’ll find out what are the best foods you should eat to intake some good quality protein.
What is protein?
The protein belongs to each cell, tissue or organ of our body. Being in the body, protein is permanently replaced and rebuilt, according to the needs of out body.
Proteins taken from the food we eat daily are broken down in digestion process to amino acids which are absorbed into the body and uses for the process of reconstruction.
Large quantities of protein are found in the following food:
- red meat, poultry, and fish
- nuts and seeds
- milk and other dairy products
- some whole grains and fruits (but give a lower protein intake compared with the other sources)
Types of proteins that exist
Protein is composed of amino acids.
We have main 20 amino acids, and depending on how they combine, can give ‘birth’ to any type of protein.
Some of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body, but there is a special category of amino acids that our body can not synthesize.
These amino acids are called essential amino acids, and it is really important to be included in our daily diet since they can not be produced by our body’s metabolism.
Depending on the number of essential amino acids, proteins are called complete proteins or incomplete.
A complete protein source is that which provides all essential amino acids and resulting protein is a high-quality one. Foods coming from the animal source are rich in protein (red meat, poultry, fish), but eggs and dairy offer great quantities of proteins. All these protein sources listed are considered to give complete proteins.
An incomplete protein source is one that has reduced amounts of one or more essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete proteins but which, together, provide all necessary essential amino acids, in an amount adequate to maintain health.
For example, brown rice has low amounts of some essential amino acids, but the essential amino acids are found in large quantities in the dry beans. If you associate brown rice with dry beans, we can reconstruct the required amount of essential amino acids to be healthy.
If it was considered that these incomplete proteins should always be consumed together, some recent studies proven that, as long as the food is consumed on the same day, our body takes its necessary essential amino acids.
Next, we could present you the nutritionist’s recommendations for a balanced healthy diet, according to age and sex, but for practical purposes, is more useful to show you how much protein you can intake from most common food that everyone consumes daily, or almost daily.
- 250 ml of milk give an intake of 8 grams of protein
- a 100 g piece of meat (red meat, poultry, fish) bring around 22 g of protein
- 200 grams of boiled vegetables provide about 15 g protein
- 125 g of yogurt give you an intake of an average of 4 g protein
- a small slice of cheese provides 20 g protein
- a chicken egg contains 7 g of protein
- a slice of tofu has 10 g of protein
As you can see from the list, our usual diet presents no lacks of protein and it ensures us the required amounts of protein. In fact, most people with normal eating habits (not vegans) are actually consuming more protein than needed.
The first organs that can affect by too much protein intake are kidneys. The amount of protein in urine can get very high resulting in the formation of kidney stones.
Protein overdose forces the calcium to be released from the bones, because of the increased acidity caused by the protein digestion and absorption.
High consumption of meat is often associated with heart problems caused by the excess of saturated fats that are found in meat.
During weight loss diets, the excess of protein can interrupt the processes that should lead to weight loss.
How do you know that eating too much protein?
In the cases of physical and mental stress or sportive activity like gym workouts, the body will ask for more proteins, but that does not mean to intake unlimited quantities of proteins.
Recommended dose is of 1,5 g of protein per 1 kg of body weight. Thus, for a woman with an average weight of 60 kg, the recommended dose of protein must be between 45g-90g of protein per day.
The most important thing is to be careful to have a balanced diet and to get protein from all sources, like both vegetable protein and animal protein.
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