The Importance of Protein
There are dozens of reasons to make sure you get enough protein in your diet. Protein plays an essential role in every cell in your body. Protein is an important building block for muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. Hair and nails are made up of mostly protein. Protein is necessary for producing enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. And your body uses protein to build and repair tissue.
A Core Macronutrient
Protein is considered a “macronutrient.” This means your body needs relatively large amounts to stay healthy and function properly. Carbohydrates and fat are also macronutrients. (Since you only need vitamins and minerals in small quantities, they are called “micronutrients.”)
But your body does not store protein as it does with carbs and fat, so it has no reservoir to draw from when you’re running low. Yet, don’t assume this means you should eat protein all day long. In actuality, you may need less total protein than you might think.
Calculate How Much Protein You Need By Percent Of Calories
Current USDA dietary guidelines suggest that adult men and women consume between 10 and 35 percent of their total calories from protein. To get your number and track your intake, you’ll need to know how many calories you consume each day.
Once you know how many calories you consume, simply multiply that number by 10 percent and 35 percent to get your range.
As an example, a man who consumes 2,000 calories per day would need to consume 200 to 700 calories each day from protein.
Getting More Protein Into Your Diet
Here are a few tips to get more protein in your healthy diet.
- Serve scrambled eggs and spinach for breakfast.
- Add seeds or chopped nuts on top of a veggie side dish.
- Make a handful of almonds your afternoon snack.
- Eat more fish, but avoid breaded fish. Choose baked or poached fish instead.
- Make a stir-fry with pieces of chicken and fresh veggies.
Keep in mind that one serving of protein usually comprises 3 to 5 ounces of meat, poultry or fish, one egg, and 1.5 ounces of cheese. A guide for serving sizes for meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand. And a serving of cheese is the same size as two dice.
Protein helps to maintain body tissues, including muscles, organs, nervous system, blood, skin, and hair. It also serves as a transport mechanism for oxygen, fats, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, eating protein can help you manage your weight because it takes longer to digest a protein-rich meal. After consuming a meal with protein, you’re likely to feel full and satisfied longer.