By: Amanda Li, Registered Dietician
What’s all the fuss about protein?
If you ask a child why is protein important, the first thing they would probably do is flex their biceps and with a big grin on their face, and scream “muscles!” They aren’t wrong, as protein is crucial for maintaining and building muscle. But as you may have guessed, there is more to this protein story. Aside from water, proteins are the most abundant molecules in our bodies – everything from our muscles, skin, hair, bones and organs are made mostly of protein.
In fact, every cell in the body contains protein. Protein provides structure and growth for tissues, and also supports immune function and metabolism. Basically, you need protein in your diet every day to help your body repair cells and make new ones. When you eat protein, your body digests the protein molecules and releases amino acids, the building blocks of protein, into your system, and the amino acids are absorbed by other tissues or formed into new proteins.
Now that you know why protein is so vital for optimal health, how much protein should one eat daily? A good rule of thumb for adults is to eat 20-30 grams of protein at each meal, and you might add a couple of smaller protein-rich snacks in between. Spacing out your protein intake has been shown to yield the greatest net increases in protein synthesis. So if you’re looking to build muscle mass, this is important to note! Even if you aren’t looking to further your muscle-building needs, eating protein every few hours will keep you feeling more satiated after meals and regulate your blood sugar levels.
RECIPE: Pan-Fried Spiced Pork Chops with Arugula Citrus Salad
Below are examples of what 20-30 grams of protein would look like:
- 1 pork chop (I choose high-quality brands like LiberTerre because their pork products are raised without the use of antibiotics and are free from added hormones and animal by-products)
- 3-4 whole eggs
- 1 cup egg whites
- two-thirds of a standard 6oz can of tuna fish
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 ½ cups shelled edamame
Until next time, relish every bite.