The exact amount of protein you need to eat – and how packing in too much could put you at risk of debilitating illness

The exact amount of protein you need to eat – and how packing in too much could put you at risk of debilitating illness

PROTEIN-packed versions of everyday food and drinks, from cereal to bread and even coffee, are filling our super­market shelves.

One in ten people now consume protein bars and powders as consumers aim to aid weight loss, build muscle and banish cravings.

GettyScientists found women who ate high levels of plant protein were 46 per cent less likely to develop chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and kidney failure[/caption]

GettyDietitian Azmina Govindji tells Sun on Sunday Health how protein is essential for us all but packing in too much could actually cause harm[/caption]

And a new study has confirmed women who eat greater levels of protein in midlife are more likely to remain healthy as they age.

 Scientists at the US government-backed Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging in Boston, found women who ate high levels of plant protein in particular, were 46 per cent less likely to develop chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and kidney failure.

Today dietitian Azmina Govindji tells Sun on Sunday Health how protein is essential for us all but packing in too much could actually cause harm.

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

It is made up of amino acids that play crucial roles in immune function, muscle growth and fat metabolism.

 Without these essential amino acids, our body would struggle to grow and repair, make healthy hair and nails or strong bones and muscle.

Protein not only provides you with essential nutrients, it also helps fill you up.

 So protein foods are particularly helpful when you are trying to eat less.

Gram for gram, pure protein has less than half the calories of pure fat.

WILL PROTEIN HELP ME GET IN SHAPE?

Yes. From around the age of 40, people gradually start to lose muscle mass.

This is called sarcopenia. Your muscles start to weaken as you get older and this can lead to poor balance and an increased risk of falls.

 “Bingo wings” are a classic sign of sarcopenia.

 You can keep muscles strong with regular physical activity but also by eating enough protein. Amino acids act like building blocks for the body. If you eat protein after exercise, it gives your muscles the amino acids necessary to repair and rebuild.

HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD WE BE EATING?

The average woman needs around 45g a day and a man 55g. I advise people to aim for 15 to 20g protein with each meal.

 Research suggests we should split our protein throughout the day, rather than have our biggest portion at dinner.

As you get older, your body absorbs nutrients less efficiently and your appetite tends to decrease making it harder to ensure your body is getting enough protein.

Many older people eat meals like soup and bread with very little protein and yet, these are the very people who need it most to maintain their muscle mass.

Athletes might also need more to aid muscle strength and recovery.

CAN WE HAVE TOO MUCH PROTEIN?

Yes. Eating too much protein can put a strain on your kidneys. This is particularly a problem for people who already have higher risks of kidney problems, such as those with diabetes. The NHS website also states that eating too much could lead to increased risk of osteoporosis.

 The Department of Health advises adults against consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein.

 Also eating too much red and processed meat has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

WHERE SHOULD I GET MY PROTEIN?

You can get protein from meat, eggs, fish, dairy, beans, lentils, peas, sweetcorn, nuts, soya, seeds, meat substitutes and dairy-free drinks.

But manufacturers are now displaying protein claims on labels, which creates a bigger desire to reach for high-protein foods. We don’t need protein shakes, supplements or high- protein foods — you would be far better to get protein from meals. These products are no more effective at building your muscles than the protein you get from ordinary food.

The recent study found plant protein was most beneficial when it came to reducing the risk of chronic illness in later life.

CAN PROTEIN HELP ME LOOK YOUNGER?

Yes, eating adequate protein prevents age-related muscle loss. Protein also plays an important role in nurturing your skin and hair and is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that gives skin its elasticity and keeps it looking firm.

WHAT DOES 5g PROTEIN LOOK LIKE?

Getty1 large slice wholegrain bread[/caption]

2 x 60g oatcakesPhotolibrary RM – Getty

90g peasFlickr RF – Getty

Getty1 large baked potato[/caption]

140g boiled wholegrain rice

2 x 60g oatcakes

90g cooked pasta

90g peas

3 tsp peanut butter

1 large baked potato

1 large slice wholegrain bread

100g baked beans

AMOUNT IN FOODS

Grilled 160g medium chicken breast – 38.4g

Alamy30g cheddar – 7.6g[/caption]

AlamyTwo large eggs – 80g[/caption]

Sainsbury’s125ml semi-skimmed milk – 4.4g[/caption]

Grilled 160g medium chicken breast – 38.4g

Two large eggs – 80g

Three fish fingers – 90g

Grilled 100g salmon fillet – 29.5g

Lean 200g rump steak – 40g

Two sausages – 90g

60g of canned tuna – 15.2g

40g slices of ham – 9g

120g low-fat plain yoghurt – 5.8g

125ml semi-skimmed milk – 4.4g

30g cheddar – 7.6g
   

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