What is protein?
Dietary protein is an important macronutrient that we could not live without. It plays a major role in the building of organs and tissues and in the repair and development of strong muscles. Protein helps build and repair cells in the body and is used to make the hormones and enzymes that regulate growth, development, and metabolism.
There are 2 types of dietary protein: complete protein and incomplete protein.
Complete protein: This type of dietary protein contains all the essential amino acids we need to build protein in the body. Complete protein is found in all animal sources of protein, like chicken! Chicken is a great option because it is an excellent source of protein and has less saturated and trans fats than many other animal sources of protein.
Incomplete protein: This type of dietary protein does not contain all of the essential amino acids that the body needs. If you ate only incomplete protein, the functions in the body supported by protein would be compromised. The majority of plant foods (beans, nuts, grains) are considered incomplete proteins.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat plant-based sources of protein. You just have to find complementary proteins to eat together. For example, some grain products contain amino acids that legumes and beans don’t. When eaten together, there’s enough of that specific amino acid present to consider the entire package a complete source of protein.
How much protein do you need?
One of the biggest questions people have regarding protein intake is the amount they should be consuming on a daily basis. This can easily be calculated using the following formula:
Weight (kg) x 0.8 g/kg/day = Average Daily Protein Need
Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more protein to support the growth and development of their child and maintain their own health. The following formula can be used to calculate the protein needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women:
Pregnant women need: 1.1 g/kg/day
Women who are breastfeeding need: 1.3 g/kg/day
Protein in your meals
It has been found that our bodies can only process a certain amount of protein at a time, about 30 grams. So if you are eating the bulk of your protein at dinner, your body is only able to use 30 grams of that protein. The rest is either stored as fat or is burned off. For this reason, it is important to split up your protein intake throughout the day and consume amounts at breakfast, lunch, dinner.
For a list of protein-packed meals, visit: