If you think you’re just one of those people who doesn’t need protein, think again: Protein is essential for immunity, maintaining healthy body composition, blood sugar balance, tissue healing and repair, muscle growth and for the production of hormones, chemical messengers and digestive enzymes in the body. Without protein, your body can’t properly make collagen to heal the skin; serotonin, dopamine and melatonin to boost mood and improve sleep, growth hormone for repair of body tissues and to slow down aging, digestive enzymes to prevent bloating and indigestion and antibodies to prevent infection.
In my practice, I often see vegetarians or vegans with signs of insufficient protein because they haven’t made a conscious effort to properly combine proteins or simply have not consumed enough protein to meet their daily requirements. Signs of insufficient protein include poor wound healing, dry skin, hair loss, gas and bloating, poor digestion, frequent colds and flus, prolonged soreness after exercise, mood swings, insomnia and depression.
Protein powders can provide an excellent source of protein in our diets. If you’re a conscious eater attempting to achieve glycemic (blood sugar) balance by consuming healthy carbs, proteins and fats at each meal, you’re probably also aware that finding lean sources of protein can sometimes be challenging. This is especially true if you’re vegan, vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian (consume fish, eggs and dairy).
But it’s not only those with special diets who need to be aware of their protein intake. Before you eat your next all-pasta meal or breakfast of coffee and scones, brush up on the best protein sources and proper food combining with this quick primer:
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Without getting too technical and avoiding the need to weigh or measure your foods, use these simple guidelines:
- Include a serving of protein the size of your palm with each meal, three times a day.
- Include a serving of half of your palm size with each snack, twice a day.
- If reading labels, the typical male should have 35 grams to 40 grams per meal and 15 grams to 20 grams per snack. Women should consume 25 grams to 30 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack.
Sample of Protein Sources:
|5 oz steak, cooked||35|
|5 oz roasted chicken||43|
|5 oz tuna||43|
|1 cup milk||8|
|2 tbsp peanut butter||9|
|2 slices of cheese (low-fat is best)||14|
|2 slices of whole-wheat bread||5|
|1 cup cooked broccoli||5|
|1 cup beans (legumes)||15|
*Individuals with kidney disease should consult their physician for proper protein requirements.
Protein Powder Options
Since you require protein with every meal and snack, finding readily available sources can be challenging. Protein powders are a useful option. You can choose whey, soy, bean or rice protein powder options. The benefits of these alternatives are outlined on the next page.