Protein, why is it so important in our diet? How much protein do we need? Where does protein come from? All these questions are commonly asked by many. Hense, MotivatePT has produced this guide to inform you of all the information about protein, what it is used for and what foods contain it etc. We want to promote healthy eating and to eliminate the fad diets which do not work. Instead, we want to educate everyone on the importance of each type of food within our diets, to help you make the right choices about the foods you eat.
Protein is an important macronutrient. Our muscles, organs, skin and hair are all made up of proteins and are a structural component. Protein helps us to grow and develop properly. When protein is consumed it is broken down in the gut into amino acids. There are 20 amino acids required for good health – 12 of which can be made by the body itself. The remaining 8 (essential amino acids) need to be obtained from our food. These amino acids are found in the bloodstream once they have been absorbed, where they are taken up by the body cells and then re-assembled into new proteins. Here they’ll be used for:
- Building, maintaining and repairing body cells and organs,
- Making hormones and enzymes, which regulate body functions,
- Making antibodies and important components of the immune system.
In the UK our main source of protein comes from animal sources such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods. We also obtain important proteins from cereal products like nuts and pulses. Animal proteins supply a good amount of all the essential amino acids that the body needs.
The answer is yes! All fruit and vegetables contain protein. Vegetarians and vegans should have no problem in obtaining sufficient protein from their diet as long as they ensure a regular intake of a variety of different foods.
It may be surprising to learn that virtually every lentil, bean, nut, seed or grain and many fruit and vegetables provide more than 10% of their energy in the form of protein. On the plus side protein from vegetable sources tend to be lower in fat, especially saturated fats, so they make a nutritious and healthy alternative to some animal protein source.
The answer is – no! Too much protein can cause huge amounts of problems for the body and could even result in death. Controversial health risks include:
- Overconsumption of protein can cause damage to the kidneys and liver.
- High protein often means low carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is the only fuel that the brain can use and very high protein diets can deprive the brain of energy.
- Very low carbohydrate diets can deprive the brain of energy.
- High protein foods such as meat and dairy products usually have fairly high levels of saturated fats. Saturated fats are one of the main causes of Coronary Heart Disease.
- A diet high in meat and low in plant foods lacks the phytochemicals (special nutrients found only found in plants) antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that delay ageing and fight cancer, heart disease and many other health problems.
- High protein diets are low in fibre and can cause constipation and diseases of the colon.
Just as eaten too much protein, eating too little protein can also cause a lot of problems. Eating insufficient protein can cause:
- Growth failure,
- Loss of muscle mass,
- Decreased immunity,
- Weakening of the heart and respiratory system.
MotivatePT hopes this guide will help you to eat the right amount of protein on a daily basis, to ensure that you are having a healthy nutritious balanced diet.