Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells and to work properly. While you may watch your calories, sugar, and salt intake, you should also make sure you are ingesting enough protein. Protein is found in a wide range of food and it’s important that you get enough protein in your diet every day.
What is a protein?
Proteins are chains of amino acids necessary for growth and repair. There are about 20 different amino acids that link together in different combinations. Your body uses them to make new proteins, such as muscle and bone, and other compounds such as enzymes and hormones. It can also use them as an energy source. Proteins are a means for all chemical reactions in the body; they are important components of all muscles and cells dysfunction without them.
It is also considered a “macro-nutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reserve to draw on when it needs a new supply.
Functions of protein
Protein assists with the growth and repair of the body. A lack of protein in the diet can result in muscle deterioration, heart problems, arthritis, muscle soreness, cramps, hair loss, loss of sleep, and poor wound healing.
- Can help speed up recovery after exercise or injury
- Reduce muscle loss
- Build lean muscle
- Help to maintain a healthy weight
- Keep you feeling fuller for longer
Recommended Daily Intake
The amount of protein you need will vary person to person depending on many factors, such as age, body weight, how active you are, or if you are pregnant.
The recommended daily intake for general population is:
- Males (19-70y.o) 0.84g per kg of body weight.
- Females (19-70y.o) 0.75g per kg of body weight.
This amount will increase with age and with how active you are. Protein requirements for children and teenagers change as they grow.
Foods rich in protein include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, and soy products.
- Animal products provide complete source of all amino acids, which promote growth, but they also contain high levels of fat.
- Oily fish are good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to prevent heart disease.
- Soy products, quinoa and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth also have all of the essential amino acids.
- Plant proteins (nuts, seeds, beans, pulses) usually lack at least one of the essential amino acids and are considered 'incomplete' proteins.
- Protein shakes - these are not needed for most people, speak to your doctor to find out if this would be suitable for you before taking any type of supplement.
How to make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet?
99% of Australians get enough protein through the food they eat.
Knowing your portion sizes can help - for example, should be no larger than a palm size piece of meat.
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as you eat a wide variety of foods, you can usually get the protein you need.
The human body can’t store protein and will excrete any excess, so the most effective way of meeting your daily protein requirement is to eat small amounts at every meal.
While no major studies link high protein intake to kidney damage in healthy individuals, excess protein can cause damage in people with preexisting kidney disease.