The 3 Step Protein Method
There has been a lot of concern that we are not getting enough protein:
Let’s us analyse the facts and draw some conclusions about this, at the same time checking out the requirement and sources of proteins:
Are proteins really that essential?
Protein is an essential nutrient. It is present in every cell of our body. It is required for various purposes in our bodies, like building new cells, wound healing, repairing cells and tissue.
In effect, proteins are required to maintain the following:-
DNA – Protein and Nucleic acid come together to form our DNA.
Enzymes – substances in the body that have various functions – for example digestion.
Keratin – Hair and Nails (This is resistant to digestive enzymes).
Hemoglobin – Red blood corpuscles contain hemoglobin. This hemoglobin carried oxygen throughout the body.
Lipoproteins – Plasma, the clear fluid in the blood has fats and proteins called Lipoproteins.
Muscle tissue – muscle tissues contain proteins called Myoglobin, Elastin, Myosin, actin, etc.
Bone – Calcium makes up the outer part of the bone. The inside part of the bone and the marrow contains protein.
There are many more functions of proteins in our body.
Now, proteins consist of chains of molecules called amino acids. There are different types of amino acids of which 20 are essential for our wellbeing. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 cannot be synthesised by our bodies. Thus they have to be obtained from the food we eat. This means that we need to get the 9 amino acids in our diet to maintain good health and wellbeing. Lack of these amino acids can result in various problems from hair loss, skin conditions, sleep disorders and cholesterol problem to name a few.
Further, proteins cannot be directly absorbed by the cells of the intestine. Enzymes break down the proteins into their component amino acids. The blood absorbs the amino acids and transports them to various organs to carry out various bodily functions. The amino acids are restructured to form other proteins, enzymes, tissues, etc.
This process of breaking down and then rebuilding amino acids is called Protein Biosynthesis. Think of Lego blocks, with which you can build various things.
Let us talk now about the 3 steps of fulfilling your protein needs:
STEP 1 – Know how much protein you need.
What should be your daily protein intake?
Nutritionists agree that about 0.8 gms of protein, per Kg of body weight is enough to fulfil our daily needs. However athletes, Body builders, etc. need higher protein intake to fuel muscle repair and sustenance. This can be as high as 2 gms of protein, per Kg of body weight.
So if you are a person of 70 Kgs:
Your ideal protein intake would be 70 X 0.8 = 56 gms per day.
However, if you expend a lot of energy, are into weight training, etc. you would need as much as 70 X 2 = 140 gms per day. This, however would depend on your fitness goals. It is better to consult a dietician for your exact requirements.
STEP 2 – Quality of Protein.
Now all proteins are not created equally (as can be seen from the image above). Animal protein and products have all of the 9 amino acids that our body cannot produce, but plant sources fall short of some of these.
If you are a Non-vegetarian, you should not have an issue with regards to getting enough protein, if you stick to home cooked meals. I am emphasising preparing meals from scratch because with the age of fast food and highly processed foods, the quality of good nutrients suffer.
However, if you are a Vegetarian or Vegan, fulfilling your daily requirement for protein can be a challenge:
But it need not be that.
Let us see how we can overcome this shortfall.
For those who are not familiar with Vegetarianism or Veganism, let me explain:
Vegetarians do not eat meat or animal products due to religious, moral or health reasons.
Vegans on the other hand do not eat or use any animal products as they believe that no harm should be done to animals for our own purposes. Vegans do not even eat eggs, dairy, honey, etc. and do not use furs, leather, etc.
As their diets do not contain animal products, getting enough protein is always the issue Vegetarians and vegans have to contend with.
Now, there are various vegetables and plant products that have high protein content. So let us see how we can ensure a protein rich veg diet. However, as stated earlier plant proteins are not complete proteins. That is they do not have all the required amino acids that our body needs. Thus, a variety of plant products need to be consumed to fulfil this need.
Let us see, what sources of protein and their combinations are available, to fulfil the amino acid requirement:
1) Combining Pulses with Dairy – baked beans with cheese.
2) Combining whole grains with Dairy – porridge with milk.
3) Vegetables with dairy – Spinach and cottage cheese (Palak Paneer).
Vegetarian/ Vegan options:
1) Combining Whole grain and pulses – Rice and Lentils (Dhal and rice)
2) Combining Pulses and Seeds – Humus with Sesame Oils or Bean Salad and flax seed oil dressing.
3) Combining grains with nuts – Quinoa with almonds/ walnuts.
4) Vegetables with Nuts and Seeds – Spinach salad with almonds and pine nuts.
These are only examples. Hope you get my drift.
Step 3 – Quantity of Protein.
Till now, we have talked about the quality of the protein. Now, how do we ensure we get the right quantity?
The table below provides the various sources of protein with the amount present in each.
|Food Item||Serving size||Protein content||Non-Vegetarian friendly||Vegetarian Friendly||Vegan Friendly|
|Red meat – Steak||3 Oz (85 g)||23 g||Yes|
|Chicken/ Turkey||3 Oz (85 g)||21 – 24 g||Yes|
|Eggs||1 large||6 g||Yes||Yes|
|Milk||1 cup||8 g||Yes||Yes|
|Fish||3 Oz (85 g)||21 – 25 g (depending on type)||Yes|
|Protein powder||1 scoop||24 g||Yes||Yes (Depending on source)||Yes (Depending on source)|
|Greek Youghurt||8Oz (227 g)||23 g||Yes||Yes|
|Cottage cheese||½ cup||14 g||Yes||Yes|
|Cheese||1 Oz (28 g)||8 g||Yes||Yes|
|Navy beans||1 cup||20 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lentils – Dry||¼ cup||13 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Peanut Butter||2 tbsp||8 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Nuts||2 Oz (57 g)||6 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tofu||3 Oz (85 g)||12 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Peas||1 cup||7 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wheat Germ||1 Oz. (28 g)||6 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Quinoa||1 cup||8 g||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Source: Bodybuilder.com; The above table is just a guide, a more concise list can be found at Wikipedia.com.
However, real foods should form the basis of your daily diet. This can be supplemented by Protein shakes, if needed.
Thus, proteins are essential to our wellbeing.
Getting the right amount of protein should note be a problem with a varied diet.
Firstly, you would find out your protein requirement from step 1,
Secondly ensure you are getting the quality of protein from step 2,
And see step 3 for the quantity of protein in each food item. However you should spread the quantity of protein throughout the day, to get the best value.
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