Proteins are good, that much we know without much instruction needed. It's even a word that rolls nicely off the tongue—"PRO-teen." It has such a great sound of positivity to it. As it should.
We hear about protein and see it mentioned a lot in advertising across all media, and many of us, especially those of us who work out a lot (pumping iron, anyone?), associate it with those delightful-looking shakes we see hard-bodied guys and gals pouring down the hatch. The stuff practically sells itself. As it should.
We all need protein in our diet for our bodies to be properly fueled and managed, although like with anything else that we consume, too much of a good thing isn't a good thing. It is recommended that women, on average, should aim to consume about 46 grams of protein a day through food sources that should be varied throughout the week, and even from meal to meal as there are many kinds of proteins, each of which contribute in their own way to our body's functionality.
The Protein Magic Number
The magic number for men is 56 grams a day, but the number for men and women should be aligned with body weight. One rule of thumb shared by experts is to multiple your weight by 0.5 and the result equates to the number of protein grams you should consume daily. Grab a calculator and we find that a man weighing 200 pounds should get 100 grams of protein a day; for a 130-pound woman, that works out to 65 grams a day.
Protein's structure is a chain of amino acids that make proteins the building blocks of life, as medlineplus.gov describes it. Every human cell contains proteins whose presence plays an important role in our body's being able to repair cells and create new ones. This benefits us in terms of muscle recovery, maintenance and growth. Protein also helps us feel fuller, longer, which in turn can help us lose weight, as needed, because we are then less likely to eat too much at the lunch or dinner table.
A cautionary note about protein, though: by itself, it won't help you build muscle and strength, or lose weight. The other part of the equation is that you must remain active, to include plenty of healthy exercise. Also note that not all protein is the same: "'There’s a huge difference between animal and plant sources of protein,' says Jamie Baum, PhD, a food science professor and protein researcher at the University of Arkansas, quoted by Prevention magazine at menshealth.com. 'While animal foods'—meat, dairy, eggs, fish—'are complete sources of essential amino acids,, plants are not.'" Essential amino acids are those that can't be manufactured by the body—food must supply them.
How do you know if you aren't getting enough protein? One common symptom is feeling wiped out all the time, even when you know you don't have the flu or a cold. Other symptoms of a protein deficiency, as outlined at draxe.com, include poor concentration; mood swings; muscle, bone and joint pain; and fluctuations in blood sugar. It can also lead to muscle atrophy and impaired functioning of our bodies.
Top 10 Protein Per Calorie Foods
Now that you are all fired up about proteins, following from healthaliciousness.com is a list of the top 10 foods in terms of most bang for your buck as determined by protein per calorie, ranked from the best on down:
- Fish (cod, tuna salmon). Wild-caught is generally considered healthier than farm-grown.
- Cheese. Non-fat mozzarella is recommended.
- Lean turkey and chicken.
- Lean (low fat) beef and veal.
- Pork loin (chops).
- Beans, especially mature soy beans.
- Yogurt, milk and soymilk.
- Eggs. Egg whites especially.
- Nuts and seeds. The website mentions pumpkin, squash and watermelon seeds.
Although not mentioned, play your cards (and your diets right), and maybe you'll earn the occasional free pass for the right to enjoy one of those delightful protein shakes you see being brandished by the Arnold Schwarzenegger types. Down the hatch. Now wipe off your mouth.