Protein is an important part of your healthy diet, along with carbohydrates and fat, and is essential for good health. Protein is used by our bodies to build cells, bones, muscles and skin. When you have an injury, such as a cut or wound, protein helps repair the damage and heal the tissue. Protein is also used to build hormones, enzymes, and hemoglobin, the part of our red blood cells which carries oxygen throughout our system.
Protein is also an important part of your healthy eating plan to maintain healthy skin
Our bodies use proteins when it comes to skin and hair…our skin is mostly made of collagen, which is a protein; our hair and nails are made of another protein called alpha-keratin. So along with the many roles that proteins play in keeping us healthy, protein is also an important part of your healthy eating plan to maintain healthy skin.
Proteins are made of amino acids, which are joined together in large chains to form the many different proteins our bodies need. There are certain amino acids which our body is not able to make, so these are called the essential amino acids, which means we need to get them from our diet by eating foods which contain them.
Animal-based foods, such as beef or chicken, contain all the essential amino acids, so they are considered to be complete proteins. Most plant-based foods are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. So if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to be careful to eat a broad range of foods to be sure that you are still getting all the amino acids you need from the foods you choose. A plant-based diet can be perfectly healthy in this regard – it just takes a little planning.
How much protein do you need?
The amount of protein you need varies based on factors such as your gender, age, health status and how physically active you are. The general recommendation by the Institute of Medicine for adults over age 18 is for protein to make up between 10 and 35% of your total daily calories. For adult men, the recommendation is to consume around 56 grams of protein per day; for adult women, the recommendation is to consume around 46 grams of protein per day. To put this in perspective, one egg provides around 6 grams of “complete” protein; a cup of cooked quinoa provides around 8 grams of protein; and a cup of cooked spinach provides around 5 grams of protein. It is also possible to get too much protein – and you need to be careful to get the right amount, as too much protein can cause health problems.
While you may be getting enough protein in your daily diet, it is important to make sure that you are getting high quality protein to support your health. The protein you consume should come from a broad range of foods, and you need to consider the overall quality of your choices.
One choice, which has become quite popular in recent years, is the whey protein shake. Whey powder, available in most grocery stores and on-line, is a complete protein found in milk, and can be a useful way to add some protein to your diet in addition to the other foods you eat. If you are new to using whey powder, try making a Banana Berry Smoothie – it is a good breakfast alternative on a day when you “don’t have time to eat” or can be used as a snack after your daily workout, in lieu of a trip to the cookie jar.