A lot of times, we expect everyone in the world to already know what we know. As a Registered Dietitian, I have a plethora of knowledge when it comes to food and its interactions with the body. I've studied these interactions and processes for the past several years. As an "expert" in my profession, I likely know more than the majority of the general population about the foods we eat.
However, there are some things that I have just assumed most people know. One of them is what constitutes protein and why it's important in the diet. I recently had someone ask me, "What foods are considered protein? Is pasta a protein?" This startled me because, foolishly, I assumed that everyone knew what quality sources of protein are!
This blog post will break down what protein is, why we need it, how it works in the body, and quality sources of protein that can be found in our diet. Hopefully this post will help you understand the protein food group, and I plan on writing posts about the other food groups as well to help break them down and explain them.
So.... meet Mr. Protein ;)
What Is Protein?
Protein is considered one of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats). "Macro" implies that your body needs a lot of these nutrients. Protein plays a critical role in the body and is a component of every bodily cell.
Why Do We Need It & How Does It Work?
Remember learning about protein and your DNA in science classes? Protein is a building block of bones, muscles, and skin. Protein plays many roles, including providing structure, function, and regulation of your body's tissues and organs. Your body needs protein to help build and repair tissues, as well as to make enzymes and hormones. Amino acids make up proteins, and they can be combined in various ways which changes their function and sequence.
How Much Protein Should I Get In A Day?
Your protein needs vary depending on your age, gender, and physical activity habits. Typically, most Americans get enough protein in their daily diet. To calculate your protein needs, take your weight and convert it to kilograms (ex: 140 lbs / 2.2 = 63.6kg). Your weight in kilograms (~0.8-1.0 g/kg Body Weight) is around what your daily protein needs are estimated to be. Please note that your level of physical activity can significantly change this amount, so those who exercise regularly can afford to have more protein. You can speak to a Registered Dietitian to help calculate your specific individual protein needs.
What Are Sources Of Protein?
Soy Products (edamame, tempeh, soy beans)*