We can live without a lot of things, but protein isn’t one of them. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, so everyone needs a different amount. To determine how much protein you and family members need, check out this protein calculator.
Proteins are not just one substance; they are made of many organic particles known as amino acids. Of these there are essential amino acids, which we need, but the body cannot make enough of. Then there are non-essential amino acids that the body can pretty much make for itself.
Most people eat twice as much protein as their bodies need though, except for young women and many children. The most complete proteins contain all the nine essential amino acids and these come from animal food like meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Eggs provide some of the highest quality protein in any one food. I don’t think its wise to go around eating nothing but eggs because too much protein would be overwhelming for your liver and kidneys.
Luckily, even a vegetarian diet typically includes a lot of plant-based foods, which provide all the protein the body needs. Good sources are legumes, seeds, nuts and fruits. Our bodies do use animal-based proteins better than plant-based proteins though. The problem here is that some meat is full of saturated fat, so if you eat meat, look for the leanest.
The proteins in certain foods can also be the cause of some allergies like gluten, which is the protein in many grains. Studies have shown that men who eat a diet that is high in red meat have an increased risk of prostate cancer, usually the more aggressive form of it. The same is true for grilling meat and fish until it is charred. This is also associated with an increased risk of cancer.
We need to be careful of so many things we eat. Still, all this talk of food has made me hungry.
Lunch on Lettuce
3 large outer leaves from a head of Boston lettuce
1 1/2-inch slice of fresh picked tomato
½ cup cottage cheese
Arrange on a small plate and garnish with a few fresh basil leaves. Half of a peeled peach or chilled slice of pineapple also works well.
This is a good way to get your children to eat some protein. A half-cup of cottage cheese contains 14 grams of a slow digesting supply of amino acids essential for growing muscles.
Another good way to please kids is to make the near protein perfect egg into a pretty and attractive package.
Pretty Strong Package
Cut an English muffin in half and toast it, top with a slice of smoked salmon and a ½-cup of cottage cheese. Or instead of cottage cheese try a poached egg. You can also use a small can (7.5 ounce) of corned beef hash.
To carry this one more step, skip the hash and use ground buffalo with its 20.23 grams of protein per serving.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.