Everything you need to know about protein
You’ve heard the experts say protein is the key to a healthy body. But why? And what exactly is protein?
There are many opinions on how protein contributes to health and how much you should have daily.
health enews checked in with one of our expert dietitians to get the real scoop on protein.
“Protein is a slow-burning fuel that powers your body,” says Ginger Sorensen, registered dietitian at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill.
It is made of amino acids, both essential and non-essential, which are the building blocks for a healthy body. Because of its complex amino acid composition, protein is hard to digest. This is good news for dieters because it helps you feel fuller, longer.
And did you know? During the digestion of protein, the body experiences something called thermogenic affect. Put simply, this means that the body actually burns calories in order to digest protein fully.
So, how much protein do we need and how do we get it?
Sorensen suggests that the daily protein intake should be about 10 to 35 percent of your calories. The average adult should aim for .8-1.0 g/kg (a kilogram is 2.2 pounds). For example, a 150 pound woman should consume about 54 – 68 grams of protein a day. Sorensen adds that most Americans get more protein than they need and that it should come entirely from one’s diet and not additional supplements.
“Eating a balanced diet that has a mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fat is important,” Sorenson says.
Here are eight healthy ways you can get your protein in:
- Try a whey or soy protein powder shake. They are a great meal replacer for health conscious people on the go and are especially effective after you’ve hit the gym.
- For the vegetarians and vegans out there, try spirulina for a plant-based protein punch. It is highly digestible as powder or a pill and is absorbed much faster than animal protein.
- Egg whites or whole eggs are complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids.
- Meat also belongs to the family of complete proteins. Make sure to focus on lean, low-fat meats in your diet. Sorensen says these types “are low in saturated fats.”
- Salmon is a lean fish that contains 34 grams of protein for a six ounce serving.
- Tofu is another veggie friendly protein source, Sorensen says.
- Nuts and seeds like raw almonds are great protein pals that are packable for easy snacking on-the-go.
- Try quinoa – this super “grain” is packing protein. One cup of cooked quinoa has eight grams of protein at only 132 calories.
These foods can add a good balance to your diet, but Sorensen also recommends adding in daily exercise whenever possible for an overall health boost.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.