Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

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Fiona Tuck

Nutrition Expert

So, you want to lean out, muscle bulk and have the lustrous skin, hair and nails? You might think- ‘high-protein diets’! This-too-good-to-be-true sounding diet may in fact be just that …..too good to be true.

If you have been going to town with the tinned tuna, nuts and protein shakes you need to know that the unfortunate reality of excessive consumption of protein is that it can be detrimental to your health.

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We do need to eat protein every day to keep our bodies fit and strong. Consuming too little protein can lead to lethargy, blood sugar swings and general fatigue. To name just a few of its important functions, protein is required for cell repair, nutrient transport and hormone production.

Our bodies need 20 different amino acids to be able to build all the proteins it needs. 11 of these amino acids can be made by the body but the remaining 9 are referred to as essential amino acids as we cannot manufacture these in the body and rely on the food we eat to provide them.

The nine essential amino acids are:

1.Histidine

2. Isoleucine

3. Leucine

4. Lysine

5. Methionine

6. Phenylalanine

7. Threonine

8. Tryptophan

9. Valine

We are constantly making proteins in the body from amino acids, the more wear, tear, growth and repair that our bodies go through, the more protein we require from our diet. Most foods contain some protein but some foods are much higher in protein than others for example animal protein is higher in protein than potatoes or rice. Consuming a variety of different types of foods every day will ensure that your body gets all the adequate amino acids it needs to be able to perform at its optimum health.

As a guide line aim to consume what you weigh in kilograms in grams of protein per day. The body needs approximately 1-2 grams of protein for every kilo in body weight. For example, if you weigh 55 kilos you would need to eat approximately 55 grams of protein every day. You need more protein in times of growth, for example teenagers, body builders, athletes, or during recovery from illness or trauma. High protein diets, protein powders and supplements are very popular right now however consuming excessive amounts of protein are of no benefit to the body.

If you eat more protein than your body needs it can lead to weight gain, put excess strain on your kidneys, create acidity in the body and leach important minerals from the bones. Your body is unable to absorb high amounts of protein which puts stress on the kidneys as they must work harder to remove more nitrogen waste products from your blood. If these waste products become too high in the blood chronic dehydration can result.

Examples of good quality protein include:

  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Organic Tempeh
  • Organic Tofu
  • Spirulina
  • Fish
  • Grass fed meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Dairy and Nut milks

Do include small amounts of high quality protein with each meal to help to stabilise blood sugar, increase satiety between meals and to avoid energy slumps but keep it balanced and keep the main part of your meal plant based.

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