Why is it important to get enough protein in my diet?
Marjorie Fitch-Hilgenberg, associate professor of dietetics in the School of Human Environmental Sciences, replies:
Protein is necessary for the growth, maintenance and repair of the body. Everyone needs to consume protein regularly, because we do not store it in our body. Dietary protein is digested and broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These amino acids are then reassembled to make the proteins our bodies need. We can make some, but not all, of the necessary amino acids. Essential amino acids, those that must come from the diet, and non-essential amino acids, those the body can make, are used throughout the body, including for enzymes, muscles, blood cells, liver tissue, even heart muscle. When more dietary protein is consumed than is needed for growth, maintenance or repair, the excess is converted into glucose for energy or fat for energy storage. This conversion is not reversible, so more protein must be eaten to continue meeting the body’s needs.
Most adults require about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (2.2 pounds). So, if you weigh 110 pounds or 50 kilograms, you need to eat only 40 grams of protein per day. Proteins are found in foods of animal and plant origin with the most significant sources being meats, milk, cheese, yogurt, poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans and peas, nuts and nut butters. Meeting your protein needs is easy: for example, one cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, and 3 ounces of meat give you 21 grams of protein.