What You Should Know About Protein

Protein is a nutrient that has been receiving a lot of attention lately and is showing up in some unexpected places such as cereals, beverages and granola bars. Protein is often associated with meat and muscles but there is a lot more to it than that. So what exactly is protein, where can we find it and what can it do for us?

What is protein?

Protein is a nutrient that is responsible for building, repairing and maintaining all of our body tissues including bones, muscles, skin and blood. Proteins also serve as building blocks for vitamins, hormones and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds. 

How much protein do we need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein ranges from 46-56 grams/day for teen and adult men and women. For those who are very active including athletes, protein needs may be higher.

Do I need a protein shake, supplement or powder to meet my protein needs?

No, most of us get plenty of protein from eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Those who may need supplemental protein are those who have difficulty meeting their nutritional needs through diet alone such as someone with a special medical condition or endurance and strength-trained athletes with high energy needs. 

Can boosting my protein intake help me tone and build muscle?

Protein is necessary for muscle growth however protein alone will not increase strength and muscle mass. To build muscle, exercise and weight training are essential.

Can protein help me lose weight?

Some research indicates that protein-rich foods may help increase satiety or help us to feel fuller longer which may help with weight loss if we eat less as a result.

Is it hard for vegetarians to get enough protein?

No, with a little planning, vegetarians can easily meet their protein needs. Just as with non-vegetarians, the key is eating a well-balanced diet including a variety of foods from each food group.  

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