When I decided to stop eating dairy, red meat and fowl (protein), it got complicated. I like hard data. The U.S. Government guidelines on protein intake are not hard and fast. Then I factor in that our Gov. Guidelines are sometimes flat wrong and that experts don’t alway agree on this question, probably because they are not sure. But, for sure, we need protein.
Proteins are the main building blocks of our bodies. We need them to make muscles, tendons, organs and even your skin, the biggest organ of the body. Proteins are also a source of energy. What makes protein? Molecules (amino acids) are linked together like beads on a string. These linked molecules form long protein chains folded into different shapes.
Right about now, my readers’ attention may be diminishing so let me offer this:
- You need protein because it has its hands in every critical function of the body.
- There are complete (animal proteins) and incomplete proteins (plant proteins).
- There are nine essential amino acids (we need to eat them) and nonessential that are produced in our liver.
- Many people in this country don’t need as much as they are taking in and many are getting too much protein from animal sources.
- Protein sates so if you don’t get enough you feel hungry, and you are not taking care of your body’s needs.
- After 70, you may need to up your intake of protein.
Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get about 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men. An 8-ounce steak with 50 grams of protein satisfied my daily need.
Plants-based proteins are “incomplete,” meaning they lack some amino acid building blocks. However, I soon learned that edamame and green soybeans are complete proteins—they contain all nine essential amino acids. Also, by combining plant proteins, rice and beans on pita bread they become “complete.”
My new eating regiment required great discipline and an open mind. Often I felt hungry, but not tired. Few times a month, I’d enter all the food I eat to make sure I was getting enough protein and calcium. Two or three years later, I’d taken off about 20 pounds (never my focus) and generally felt good, but I’d felt pretty good before as well.
The first chart shows one day’s food intake of protein, where it came from, and how it translates to protein. I often start with a soy green tea latte because it takes care of 47% of my protein and 40% of calcium and it tastes great.