High protein. Low carb. Lean protein. Protein shakes. When it comes to health, protein is a word you’ll hear very often. We know you need it to be healthy, but what exactly is protein, and how much should you really be consuming? Short answer: Proteins are the building blocks of life
All About Protein
Protein is the substance that comprises the enzymes in your body, the ones that cause chemical reactions and the things that carry oxygen in your blood. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids that are classified into these groups:
- Essential – which must come from food
- Nonessential – made by the body
- Conditional – necessary when you’re sick or stressed out
Meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds are all considered a part of the protein food group.
Protein is so important to your diet that the very name protein comes from the Latin word “first,” as in “of first importance.” It plays a role in hormone production, RNA and DNA creation, eliminating toxins from your body, helping your food digest, and much, much more. Basically, there’s no system in the body that doesn’t need protein to function.
What Happens When You Eat Too Much or Too Little Protein?
Finding the right balance of protein in your diet is essential to good health. Too much protein and too little protein will both cause harm to your body.
When you eat too much protein, these things could happen:
- Weight gain
- Extra body fat
- Stress on your kidneys
When you don’t eat enough protein, your body is at risk of:
- Muscle loss
- Low sex drive
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
How much protein you eat every day depends on your sex, age and how much exercise you get. You’ll need to consult with your doctor or nutritionist to see just how much protein you need, but in the meantime, here are some recommended sources of protein:
- Lean ground turkey
- Chicken without skin
- Unsalted nuts
Aside from meat and poultry, there are other foods that are high in protein, such as:
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
It’s recommended that you eat at least eight ounces of cooked seafood every week. Dairy products also offer good sources of protein, but be careful about how much saturated fat you’re taking in along with the protein.