What are Proteins?
Proteins are essential macronutrients needed for our bodies, that make up 15 – 25 % of our daily caloric requirements. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, 9 essential (which the body can not produce on its own), and 11 nonessential (which the body produces on its own). Amino acids make up proteins which are the important building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Proteins are responsible for producing hormones, developing and repairing muscle and cells tissue, the growth of hair and nails, as well as transporting materials throughout your body, such as hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-transporting protein found in your red blood cells.
As you can imagine, adequate protein levels in your diet are extremely important. When you do not receive enough protein for your body you may experience fatigue, low energy levels, decreased immunity and have difficulty concentrating. Low protein levels can also slow down your metabolism, potentially causing trouble in losing weight and even make building muscle mass difficult. Muscle, bone and joint pain as well as mood swings are also potential indicators of not getting enough protein.
There are 2 types of proteins: Complete Proteins and Incomplete Proteins.
Complete Proteins contain adequate proportions of all 9 of the essential amino acids needed by the body to develop and perform properly.
Examples of Complete Proteins:
1. Animal Sources:
2. Plant-Based Sources:
- Soy Protein
- Chia Seeds
Incomplete Proteins have some, but not all, of the essential amino acids. However, when consuming any combination of grains with legumes, they complete the amino acid profile, therefore making Complete Proteins. An example of this combination would be peanut butter on whole grain toast or bread.
Examples of Incomplete Proteins:
It is very important to ensure that you are consuming the recommended daily amount of proteins in your diet so that your body does not become deficient and your immune system compromised. To determine how many complete proteins are recommended for you, use the following calculation.
0.8-1g of protein daily/ your weight in kg = normal population
1.2-1.4g of protein daily/ your weight in kg = endurance sports
1.8-2g of protein daily/ your weight in kg = weight training
In order to consume enough protein in a day, eating a wide variety of protein sources is encouraged. The body can not just rely on just one source.
Here are some helpful ways to help you increase your protein intake:
- Include a protein at every meal to help balance out blood sugar levels.
- Eat your protein first.
- Snack on cheese or other dairy products high in protein.
- Replace cereal with eggs or oatmeal.
- Top your food with chopped almonds or seeds.
- Choose greek yogurt. Compared to regular yogurt, it is higher in protein and contains less sugar.
- Have a protein shake for breakfast.
- Eat more beans, lentils, and legumes.
- Pair peanut butter with grains and fruit.
Examples of proteins throughout the day:
Breakfast – eggs (frittata, omelet), quinoa with nuts and seeds.
Lunch – chicken wrap, Greek pita with chickpea/hummus and veggies
Supper – steak, potatoes and veggies, tofu stir-fry.
Snacks – trail mix and dried fruit, greek yogurt and fruit, cottage cheese and cucumber, hummus, apple & peanut butter
Everyone’s lifestyles are different. Some people are more active and therefore they require more protein intake. Others choose a vegetarian or vegan diet and their protein sources look different.
If you are struggling with your protein intake our Registered Dietitian can help you get back on track to a healthier happy you.