Next to water, the next highest source of molecules in the body is protein — an essential macronutrient required for growth and repair of cells, including hair, skin, organs, and of course muscle.
It is required for stabilizing blood sugar levels, building strong bones, balanced brain chemistry and needed for endurance and strength.
When broken down into their building blocks of amino acids, they are required as precursors to hormones, immune response, and even the formation of nucleic acids such as your very own DNA.
As much as I prefer to gravitate away from grams and portions and calorie counting, this question merits a somewhat quantified response. So, how much protein does the body need? Depends on whom you ask.
According to Health Canada, and the American Dietetic Association, 0.37 grams per one pound of body weight per day, so for 150-pound (68 kg) person that would equate to just over 55 grams of protein a day.
Some experts say the body requires up to 120 grams of protein a day, but other experts agree that this “need” for such high protein is “centred on fear rather than fact.”
The body requires only 2.5 per cent of our total calories from protein according to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition equating to approximately 18 grams per day on average.
The World Health Organization suggests around 32 grams per day, or 4.5 per cent.
Mother’s milk has about five per cent of its calories as protein.
Here is a list of some foods along with their protein content for your reference:
½ cup beef has 23 grams
1 cup of cooked black beans has 15 grams
1 cup cooked quinoa has eight grams
1 cup Greek yogurt has 23 grams
1 tbsp spirulina has 4.5 grams
Dr. Paavo Airola, a nutritionist, naturopathic physician, and award-winning author who studied natural healing in biological medical centres around Europe and has lectured around the world, references the overconsumption of protein as one of the contributing factors to aging, arthritis, schizophrenia, atherosclerosis, cancer, and kidney damage, amongst other things.
His books are used as textbooks in medical schools and universities and some have become international best sellers, including How to Get Well.
While many are fearful of not getting enough protein, maybe there is more to be feared in overconsumption?
Or maybe fear should just not be part of the equation at all.
In parts of China, where there are lower rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, their total calorie consumption is higher than that of even the United States (2,631 calories per day compared to an average of 1,989) with a daily protein intake of 64 grams versus 91 grams.
The majority of the protein in China comes from plant-based sources, with under one per cent coming from animal sources versus approximately 11 per cent coming from animal sources in the US.
According to Airola, “It is virtually impossible not to get enough protein, provided you have enough to eat of natural, unrefined foods.”
Even Harvard medical researchers found that as long as there is minimal refined and junk foods, it is difficult for even vegetarians to become protein deficient.
A major high-quality protein source that is highly overlooked is that of spirulina — one of the highest protein sources on the planet, with over 65 to 71 per cent protein.
Also high in iron, it is an excellent blood builder and rich in chlorophyll, which helps facilitate detoxification in the cells.
A portion of animal protein need only be a three-to-four-ounce portion.
Several tablespoons of spirulina a day can act as a very energizing brain building source of protein.
Perhaps putting more emphasis on the quality of the proteins that you consume may be more beneficial than focusing on the quantity.
Kristin Fraser, BSc, is a holistic nutritionist and local freelance writer. Her column appears every second Thursday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.