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Nutrition » Diets » Are Proteins Essential for Your Diet and What Foods Provide Them?

Are Proteins Essential for Your Diet and What Foods Provide Them?

Are proteins essential for your diet?

What are proteins?

Proteins are essential macronutrients that are found virtually everywhere in your body, including muscle, bones, skin, and nails. Body, tissue and cell regulation cannot happen without proteins. Proteins repair and make new cells, protect the body from viruses and bacteria, and ensure proper growth.

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Protein has a far-reaching effect on your body. It plays a major role in fortifying your bones, amping up your brain activity, repairing damaged tissue, relieving muscle soreness, and curbing hunger. Upping the amount of protein you consume daily is the best evidence-backed method to improve muscle gains. It is your secret weapon when you’re trying to shed some flab, because protein galvanizes your metabolism. By incorporating more of it into your diet, you’re giving your immune system a leg-up. As a result, your bolstered immune response will shield you from contracting a virus or a disease.

How much protein per day do I need?

On average, you need 20-30 grams of proteins per meal. However, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, the total amount of protein a person needs varies with age, gender, and level of physical activity (4). So, the recommendations vary as follows:

Women: 5 – 5 ½ ounce equivalents (around 35 – 40 g) per day

Men: 5 ½ – 6 ½ ounce equivalents (around 40 – 45 g) per day

These assume light levels of physical activity, so people who are more active may require more. Another way to estimate protein needs is to multiply 0.8 – 1 g by the number of kg you weigh. So a 150 lb (68 kg) man might need 55 – 68 g of protein per day.

Most people in the U.S consume enough protein as such, yet the effects on your health from different sources of protein vary significantly. Some high-protein foods are harmful to you while others are quite beneficial.

Sources of protein

High-protein foods

Most of the high-protein foods have positive effects on your body. However, multiple studies have shown red meat and processed meats to be detrimental to your health. For example, researchers from Harvard found the connections of consuming even a small amount of red meat to increased risks of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and death (1, 3). By contrast, replacing red meat with plant-based proteins had the opposite effect (5). This does not mean that you have to get rid of animal proteins altogether. Instead, choose high-protein foods from this selection of vegan and non-vegan healthy protein sources:

Plant-based proteins:

Legumes: lentils, beans (adzuki, black, fava, chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, pinto etc.), peas (green, snow, snap, split, etc.), edamame/soybeans (and products made from soy: tofu, tempeh, etc.), peanuts.

Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, squash and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds.

Whole Grains: kamut, teff, wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice, millet, oats, buckwheat.

Vegetables: artichokes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms.

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High-protein foods

Animal proteins:

Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) and a variety of seafood (fish, crustaceans, mollusks)

Dairy products

Eggs

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Conclusion

To sum up, a healthy diet based on nutritious high-protein foods is generally beneficial to your body. A diversity of plant-based and animal-based protein sources are available for you to replace processed and unprocessed red meat. Moreover, protein is associated with weight loss (6) and might also help you lower blood pressure and fight diabetes (2). Just don’t overconsume it, because too much protein is completely useless for your body. Develop a balanced diet including all macroelements for best results.

After figuring out the amounts and sources of proteins that your diet should include, you might try to focus on your working out routines. A well-balanced diet sets a great start for a full body strengthening exercises. The 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home is a workout program you might follow in your own bedroom.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Heart Disease (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
  2. Optimizing Protein Intake in Adults: Interpretation and Application of the Recommended Dietary Allowance Compared with the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Protein (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
  4. Protein Foods (n.d., choosemyplate.gov)
  5. Substituting healthy plant proteins for red meat lowers risk for heart disease (2019, hsph.harvard.edu)
  6. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Alex Porter

Alex Porter

Alex is a professional writer who takes pride in helping people achieve their health goals and motivates others to start taking care of their bodies through exercise and proper nutrition. Being a part of the BetterMe Team, he is extremely inspired by our mission to promote a healthy lifestyle, which includes not only physical, but also mental well-being. Alex emphasizes the importance of safe yet efficient workouts and healthy diets. His main goal is to make more people realize how essential these aspects are, and how drastically they can improve their lives.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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