Every cell in our body is partly made up of protein. To build new cells and and for the existing cells to go through their continous process of growing and replacing themselves we need to have adequate supplies of protein.
Which brings us to the question what are proteins? Well, proteins are are made up of chains of amino acids. There are many different kinds of amino acids and the order in which they are linked together will depend upon whether it is a grain of wheat or muscle tissue (meat). Once we eat the food and it is digested and absorbed the chains are broken down into the separate amino acids. The body then comes into its own by building up new chains but in the order that is required to form different parts of the human body for example hair,muscle or a hormone.
So how much protein do we need? The recommended intake of protein is in fact 10% but in most diets worldwide 10-15% of the total energy (calories) is provided by proteins. For an average person this works out to approximately 60g of protein per day. Protein deficiencies are rare in western societies and there is a concern that too much protein is being consumed. Research does suggest that there is an association between red meat consumption and heart attacks,stroke and bowel cancer.
What are good sources of protein? There are many different sources of protein to choose from and here is a short list to give an idea – Meat,offal,milk,cheese,yogurt,corn,wheat,breat,pasta,rice,potatoes,couscous,nuts,beans,peas,lentils and eggs.
Ok, so what provides 60g protein? Another short list coming up but remember the weights are all uncooked weights – 1.8 litres milk,2.8kg potatoes,240g dried lentils,230g peanuts,460g dried pasta,800g brown rice,19 slices of wholemeal bread,340g rump steak,240g cheddar cheese,300g chicken,400g lamb chops,660g sausages,325g haddock.
What about vegetarians and vegans? Well they too have to ensure that they have a diet with adequate protein for energy and for the rebuilding of the tissues of the body. But as can be seen above there are plenty of foods to choose from. It must be remembered though that it would not be a good idea to substitute meat with only cheese,eggs and milk as due to the relatively high fat content of these foods it can lead to obesity. So it is good to use cereals,beans,nuts and vegetables as substitutes too.
As can be seen it is pretty simple to incorporate the amount of protein that we need to stay fit and healty into our diets but as with most things it can be overdone. So mix and match your proteins to ensure a good balance of protein.