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Protein: What’s the fuss about and how healthy is it for your body?

February 08, 2021

Ever wondered what is it about protein that makes it a wonder nutrient for your health? If yes, then how much do you need? Here's what you need to know.

Ever wondered what is it about protein that makes it a wonder nutrient for your health? Here’s what you need to know.

Protein is touted as one of the key nutrients when it comes to health. Whether your goal is to lose weight, or you want strong bones, pretty much every article tells you to include it in your diet. And most people incorporate protein-rich foods without giving it a second thought. But is it really healthy for you? If it is, how much should you be eating? Fret not; we have answers to all your questions.

What Is Protein?

Protein is an essential part of living things which participates in almost every process within the cells. “It is a macro-nutrient composed of amino acids that are necessary for proper growth and function of the human body. While the body can manufacture several amino acids required for protein production, a set of essential amino acids need to be obtained from animal/vegetarian protein sources,” said Ms Pavithra N Raj, Chief Dietician, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur.

Lean protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery. This macronutrient rebuilds muscle tissue and regulates chemical processes in the body. There are many benefits of eating a protein-rich diet, including:

  • Required in the form of haemoglobin to carry oxygen in the blood
  • Needed for muscle function
  • Acts as antibodies to fight against infection and boost immunity
  • As collagen to give bones strength and flexibility
  • As insulin to signal the cells to take in and use sugar

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of protein for men is 60 gm/day and for women 55 gm/day. While this might seem a small amount to eat every day, most people don’t include enough protein in their daily diet.

But once you workout and your body is in recovery mode, your body’s protein requirement goes up. During this period, you need to eat at least 70 gm/day, as recommended by Ms Pavithra.

“A good amount of protein is required after 35 years of age because of low bone density, making people susceptible to fractures. It will also help prevent the signs of osteoporosis. Hence, it’s vital that good biological value protein is given,” she added.

Sources Of Protein

Now that we have understood the basic requirements of the body and the importance of this macronutrient, it is time to know which protein-rich foods you should be adding in your diet.

For non-vegetarians, egg whites, along with lean cuts of chicken and fish are good options. “1 egg white will approximately provide around 3.5 grams of protein, which is helpful for bone strength.”

For vegetarians, milk, soya, paneer, pulses, ragi are good sources you can include in your diet. X`Other sources include pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, peanut butter, protein bars and biscuits, soya milk, tofu, lentils, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

“For vegetarians, 10-12 per cent of calories should come from this nutrient and for non-vegetarians 14-18 per cent. It is essential to eat high-quality protein foods in order to get maximum benefits. It will help you keep energetic and full between meals,” explained the dietician.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Although it is a necessary part of the diet and fuels a lot of important bodily functions, too much of anything can be harmful to your system. Too much of this macronutrient in the body can be disposed off from the system, but sometimes it may lead to health problems. Some people may suffer from nausea, diarrhoea, and buildup of amino acids or ammonia in gout. 

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