Proteins are one of the three macro nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. The other two being fats and carbohydrates. Every cell in the human body is made up of a protein component. Hair and nail is primarily made of protein. Proteins are macronutrients which means that they need to be consumed in a fairly large quantity daily.
They are vital for the health and repair of muscles, bones, skin and other tissues in the body. The chemicals in the body like enzymes, hormones etc. are all made up of proteins. Unlike the other two macro nutrients, fats and carbohydrates, proteins cannot be stored in the human body which makes adequate consumption of protein on a daily basis of vital importance.
How much protein does a human body need? The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein in general is about 0.75-0.8gms per kilogram of body weight for a person who leads a sedentary lifestyle, 1-1.2gms per kg of body weight for a person who works out and 1.8-2gms per kg of body weight for a person who trains heavily or is into body building.
The best way to consume protein is to space it out. Include it in each meal instead of fitting it into one meal. While eating protein always be aware of your overall calories consumption. Pick healthier sources of proteins as opposed to sources that also pack a lot of excess calories.
Sources of proteins: Here are a few examples of protein sources that are most commonly found, along with their protein content. These foods not only contain protein but also have other macro and micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals in them. Be sure to compute all the macros/overall calories in a certain food when charting a diet plan.
- Eggs: They are known as universal protein because they find a place in every kind of cuisine all over the world. Egg whites are almost completely protein. About 30% of the overall calories in an egg come from proteins.
- Nuts: Nuts like Almonds, Cashew nuts, Peanuts, Pistachios are a good source of protein. About 11-13 % of their total calories comes from proteins.
- Dairy Products: Unless you are lactose intolerant diary products are a rich source of proteins. Milk (20% calories from protein), yogurt(25-50% of calories respectively for full fat and non-fat greek yogurt) and cheese(about 25-60% of total calories depending on the types of cheese).
- Legumes: They are the richest source of plant based proteins. They are the best protein sources for vegetarians. Kidney beans, Soybeans, Chickpeas, Lentils all fall in this category. About 20-35% of their total calories come from protein.
- Grains/Seeds: Grains like oats and Seeds like quinoa are a rich source of proteins. They are considered two of the healthiest foods in the world, also called superfoods. Pumpkin seeds are also considered a rich source of protein. Proteins constitute about 15% of their overall calories.
- Vegetables: Vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts have about 15% of calories from protein.
- Chicken Breast: It the one of the most popular sources of lean protein. About 80% of the overall calories of skinless chicken breast come from protein.
- Fish and other sea food: Another rich source of protein are sea food like tuna fish,salmon, shrimps etc. About 40-90% of overall calories come from protein depending on the type of sea food.
- Whey protein: This is the best supplement of proteins for those who need extra proteins or for those who are unable to get the adequate amount of protein from their food sources. It is extremely effective for building muscle mass especially in bodybuilders. Can constitute upto 90% of the overall calories depending on the brand.
The importance of proteins in a healthy body cannot be stressed enough. Not just for having a lean, fit body or building muscle mass but to have vital body tissues work optimally one must make sure to focus on getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance(RDA) of protein on a daily basis.