With almost every body part including hair, nails, hormones made of protein, we also need to consume protein-rich foods daily. Like the other nutrients, carbohydrate and fats, which we need in relatively bigger amounts everyday, protein provides energy. It also boosts the immune system and plays a vital role in maintain healthy skin, hair, nails and digestive tract. Its unique role that other nutrients can’t perform is the provision of amino acids for body building as seen in growth and pregnancy as well as repair of tissues as seen in wound healing. Amino acids are the end products of protein digestion and they are the building blocks of large molecule protein. All essential and non-essential amino acids needed must be complete before new tissues, hormones or chemicals are made. The essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body and thus need to be taken from the foods we eat.
It is worth noting though that the priority of the body at all times is the provision of energy for its voluntary and involuntary activities so that even if someone consumes some protein, if the amount of energy derived from carbohydrates and fats is not enough to provide energy, the protein will be used as energy source rather than for body building. That explains stunted growth indicated by low height-for-age for children.
The FNRI recommends that for Filipino adults, only 10-15% of our recommended total energy intake come from protein. That translates to 62 and 71 grams protein per day for females and males. It can be as low as 6% for children. Following the Food Pyramid for Filipinos, only 3-5 servings of protein-rich foods including milk, are to be consumed. A serving is a matchbox of pork or beef, a regular chicken or fish slice, 1 piece of egg, 3 tablespoon corned beef to enumerate a few. Some protein is derived from carbohydrate-rich foods like rice. Thus, a piece of egg in the morning, 1 slice of bangus at lunch and 2 regular slices of pinikpikan would be enough meat to add to your half cup liquid or 4 tablespoons of powdered milk in a day.
When in excess, protein puts burden primarily on the kidneys as much waste need to be eliminated which in the long run can lead to kidney failure. Plant proteins like nuts and legumes are good fiber sources, have no cholesterol and are better choices. In contrast, protein-rich foods of animal origin contain cholesterol which is linked to heart and blood vessel problems, hypertension, gallstones and even gout attacks. Also, it comes with fat, saturated or unsaturated and sodium. Red meat has higher saturated fat which is also implicated in health problems. Deep sea fishes like salmon is low in fat yet rich in omega-3 fatty acid is also recommended. After all, the Mediterranean Diet which includes just a small amount of protein mostly fish, dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and other legumes, olive oil, herbs and spices is most recommended.
Before you continue feasting on meat, think if it’s a better source and think of your limit.