Too Much Protein

Too Much Protein

You are made of protein

If you want to know what protein is, the answer is simple--you are! If you take away the fat in your body and the water in your body, what is left--your bones and muscles and tissues and hair and skin and fingernails and toenails and hormones and enzymes are mostly protein. When you think of it like that, you can see how important it is to eat healthy protein.

When we talk about protein in our diets, we are mostly talking about meat, eggs and dairy products. Another way of saying this is, generally, most of the protein in our meals comes from the main course.

Steak… Hamburger… Roast Beef… Pork chops… Ham… Bacon… Sausage… Hot dogs… Lamb chops… Chicken… Turkey… Duck… Capon… Fish… Shrimp… Lobster… Crab… Scallops… Venison… Omelets… Egg Salad…

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt are also good sources of protein.

In addition, some plant foods are significant sources of protein. These are the legumes, grains, some vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Lentils… Split peas… Kidney beans… Pinto beans… Black beans… Soybeans… Garbanzo beans… Navy beans… Peanuts… Peanut Butter… Rice… Wheat…. Barley… Oats… Peas… Kale… Okra… Walnuts… Brazil Nuts… Almonds… Pumpkin Seeds… Sesame Seeds….

Many of the foods you eat have some protein in them, but those foods listed above, are a significant source that will make it easier for you to fulfill your daily protein requirements.

However, as with anything, you can get too much of a good thing.

Here is a list of possible effects of overeating protein:

(1) Too Much Protein may lead to obesity.

If you eat too much protein, your body can convert it to energy, but if that energy is not used, it will be stored as fat, which could lead to obesity.

(2) Too Much Protein replaces other important food groups.

You only have so much room in your diet, and if you emphasize one food group over the others, your nutrtional status may suffer. For example, if you eat too many protein foods and not enough vegetables and fruits, you will miss out on the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidant benefits of these foods.

Including a balance of all the food groups in your daily eating regimen is the best way to assure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. 

Click here for more general information on nutrition and the food groups. 

(3) Too Much Protein causes stress to kidneys.

In addition, eating too much protein puts a heavier load on the kidneys to get rid of the by-products of protein metabolism.

(4) Too Much Protein may be linked to disease.

There has also been some suggestion of a link between eating large amounts of animal protein (which is usually accompanied by saturated fat), and heart disease, cancer and possibly diabetes.

Dairy products

How much is enough?

The amount of protein needed can vary based on age, gender, genetics, health and the quality of the protein. It is generally thought that we need about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight every day. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need about 52.5 grams of protein each day.

150 ÷ 20 = 7.5 7.5grams x 7 = 52.5grams

Many health experts put it a different way by saying that we should get about 30% of our calories each day from protein sources. Protein has about 4 calories per gram, so if you consume 2400 calories a day, about 720 of them should be from protein.

2400 calories x 30% = 720 calories

Yet another way of putting it is in reference to the Food Pyramid, which is a way to visualize the amount of food you should eat from each of the five food groups, each day. By this method, depending on your weight, you need two to three 3-ounce servings of meat, fish, poultry or meat analog each day. (A meat analog is a soy or grain based product that is manufactured to look and taste like certain meat products.)

The USDA has reworked their visual representation for eating healthy from a pyramid to a concept called "MyPlate." This simpler model shows a dinner plate divided into four portions for Protein, Vegetables, Fruits and Grains, with a side of Dairy.

Okay, so you’re not a mathematician, you’re a gourmand, and you don't want to sit around doing equations to find out what you should eat. Suffice it to say, that if you live in a developed country such as the USA, it is more likely that you are getting too much protein than not enough.

When you consider that most foods have some protein and many foods, as listed above, have significant protein, if you are eating three square meals a day, you are probably getting enough protein. However, if you live in an underdeveloped country, protein deficiency may be a real concern. People in poor countries struggle to meet the minimum requirements for protein.

If you have eggs (possibly with bacon or sausage) or cereal with milk or toast with peanut butter for breakfast, a salad with chicken breast or a ham and cheese sandwich or minestrone soup for lunch, and a hamburger or a pork chop or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, you are most likely getting more than enough protein. Even if you skipped one of those meals, you probably are still getting enough protein.

What is a serving of protein?

If you misplaced your meat scale, the usual guideline for visualizing meat servings is that the portion should be the size of a standard deck of playing cards. (Just imagine how many servings are represented by that platter-sized prime rib served at your favorite restaurant!)

For non-meat protein sources, a serving, which is 1 large egg, ½ cup cooked beans or rice, or 2 Tablespoons of seeds, nuts or peanut butter, is equivalent to only about 1/3 of the protein in a serving of meat. Tofu can also be included in this group with a serving size of about 4oz.

In addition, most health experts recommend that, whenever possible, choose a leaner or low-fat version of the significant protein sources.

Too Much Protein - The upshot

Although it is a necessary nutrient, eating too much protein can have a negative effect on your health.

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