Proteins – are you eating enough?

Nutrients

Nutrients can be divided into two major groups:

1)  Macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat – which will be discussed in this chapter.

2)  Micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and water – which will be discussed in other chapters.

Macronutrients – Protein

“I don’t work out so I don’t need a lot of protein!” If only I had a dime for every time I’ve heard my female patients say that! Proteins are an integral part of good nutrition and are absolutely essential, whether or not you are working out. We need protein in our diets to grow, maintain and repair every part of our bodies such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair and nails.

Protein also plays a vital role in the formation of:

• Antibodies – needed for proper immune function

• Enzymes –  required for the chemical processes of the body such as digestion

• Blood – red blood cells contain a protein called ‘hemoglobin’ that carries oxygen in the body

• Hormones – such as insulin, which regulates sugar and fat metabolism

Protein also provides the body with energy when we have lowered our intake of carbohydrates and fats, such as when we follow a low-calorie diet or do extreme physical activity.

Sources of Protein

Proteins are made up of 20 or so different amino acids. Eight of them are essential (the body can’t make them on its own) and are required in our diet. Non-essential amino acids can be produced by our bodies from other amino-acids.

High quality protein: Protein that contains all essential amino acids in amounts that our bodies can use to build our own proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and a good quality whey protein powder.

Lower quality protein: Protein that is missing one or more essential amino acid or has unbalanced amounts of amino acids such as legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts, seeds and grains (breads, pastas and cereals).

The World Health Organization and many national health agencies have independently conducted studies concluding that our daily protein requirement should be between 10 percent and 15 percent of our daily caloric intake. There is still much controversy over this and the percentages will vary from one source to another. In my opinion, protein percentages should take your Metabolic Typing® into consideration as well as your level of activity.

Daily protein considerations – basic guidelines by different levels of activity

 

Activity level

Protein per pound
of body weight

Average adult 0.4 gram
Exerciser/active 0.5 to .75 gram
Athlete 0.6 to 0.9 gram
Bodybuilder 1.0 to 1.5 grams

 

If you don’t have a food scale at home or if you are eating out in a restaurant, here is an easy way to “estimate” your protein content. One serving of protein, be it chicken, beef, fish or seafood, should be about the size of the palm of your hand – it will give you approximately 25 grams of protein.

Approximate Protein Content of Common Foods

• Egg (1 medium) -6 g

• Peanut butter , chunky (2TBSP) -8 g

• Chick-peas, cooked (1/2 cup) – 8 g

• Milk (8 oz.) – 10 g

• Yogurt, low fat, plain (8 oz.) – 12 g

• Almonds (1/2 cup) -15 g

• Tuna, fresh, cooked (3 oz.) – 23 g

• Ground Beef, lean, cooked (3 oz.) -24 g

• Chicken, boneless, cooked (3 oz.) – 27 g

Try to get proteins and dairy from organic sources – grass-fed animals as opposed to grain-fed animals.

In my experience, female patients usually do not eat enough protein. These patients are having a hard time losing weight and are often frustrated. After reviewing their diet or looking at their Metabolic Type®, I often suggest an increase in their protein intake and a decrease in their carbohydrate intake. They often see great results! So instead of packing those low-fat carbohydrate snacks in our lunch bag, let’s think about ways to load up on protein snacks instead. It might be difficult for vegetarians to increase their protein because they don’t eat meat or for busy people with no time to cook. A quality whey protein powder can help give people the protein boost they need.

Don’t be too tempted by protein bars as a quick alternative to other proteins because most bars also contain high levels of unwanted additives. Keep in mind that we can’t live on protein bars alone. They should only be a last resort when fresh, wholesome foods are unavailable. Keep some in your bag for those times when you need something quick and handy (e.g., stuck in traffic or in a waiting room).

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