Protein: The Trendy Macronutrient
For the past few years, it seems that the benefits of protein have been touted across the board. From snack foods to protein packed entrees, it seems that retailers and restaurants alike are seizing on the high-protein trend. While protein certainly is an important part of every diet, the constant hype almost makes it seem as though we could never get enough. It is important to realize that in most developed countries diets are varied enough to provide adequate protein. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 grams per day for women and 56 gram per day for men. Protein needs increase for pregnant and nursing women, as well as for people who are sick or recovering from surgery. Most people get more than enough protein, and this is in part due to the fact that protein is found in so many foods. Dairy and meat are nutrient-dense sources of protein, but plant-based proteins are also abundant.
If someone is a vegetarian or vegan, they can easily get adequate protein from non-meat sources. Protein quality is important and is an indicator of the types of amino acids in a protein. Foods that are “complete proteins” contain all of the essential amino acids required for healthy function. Foods that are on their own “incomplete proteins” can be combined into “complementary proteins” to together provide all the essential amino acids we need. As a rule, combining a grain and a legume is a great way to get all the essential amino acids.
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