Are You Getting Enough Protein?

Ask anyone familiar with online dieting culture and they’ll tell you: protein is everything right now. Some self-proclaimed fitness and nutrition experts online make it seem like the only thing you need to sustain a healthy diet is simply eating an adequate amount of protein each day. This trend even caught the attention of large food corporations, who now include labels like “protein added” and “extra protein” on their prepackaged foods and snacks. To the untrained eye, it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction. Although protein undoubtedly offers numerous benefits for our overall nutrition, is it the only thing we should be looking to add to our plate? 

Protein’s Benefits 

Protein is an essential part of any balanced diet. This vital nutrient is a basic building block of the body. Protein helps your body grow and repair cells, fight off infection, regulate hormones, maintain the body’s pH and fluid balance, transport necessary nutrients throughout the body, and more. Since protein serves numerous functions in the body, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most important nutrients to maintain your health—but it isn’t the only nutrient responsible for sustaining your health. 

Where Can We Find Healthy Sources of Protein? 

Not all sources of protein are created equally. Some products that claim to contain high amounts of protein are also highly processed and contain simple carbohydrates. While new products like protein brownies, cupcakes, powders, ice cream, and more may give you the impression that you’re getting all the protein your body needs while indulging in your favorite treats, they often contain more than just protein. Additionally, you may not know exactly what you’re consuming. Products like protein powders and shakes are considered supplements and are often unregulated by the FDA 

Look for lean sources of meat such as chicken, fish, and turkey when searching for adequate protein sources. Animal-based proteins like meat, eggs, and milk are often called complete proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to function. While protein sourced from plant products such as lentils, beans, and nuts may not contain all the needed essential amino acids (thus referred to as incomplete proteins), you can make them complete by combining them with a whole grain to make them complete proteins.  Plant-based sources of protein are also great sources of fiber, which your body needs for digestion, blood sugar regulation, balancing your cholesterol, and more. 

What Other Nutrients Does the Body Require? 

While protein is without a doubt an important ingredient in a nutritious diet, other factors play equally important roles. Carbohydrates and fats are extremely important for providing your body with the energy it needs to function and to spare protein from being used for energy. Without carbohydrates and fats, your body must break down protein to use for energy, which means the protein can’t be fully utilized for all its functions.  

“With healthy eating, no nutrient can stand alone,” said Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes educator, Gale Pearson of TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News. While protein is important, we still require carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for all the nutrients and functions they provide. Likewise, we need healthy fats for the nutrients that they provide and their important functions.   

Ditch Diet Culture 

Despite what we may wish and what large food corporations claim, there simply isn’t one food that can provide us with all the essential nutrients we need to survive. Our bodies need protein, carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients to function properly. Instead of listening to online diet culture sources, get your nutrition information from a trusted expert, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist with TPMG Nutrition Services. With their help, you’ll be able to understand what nutrients you need to keep your body healthy and how you can best include these nutrients in a manageable, affordable, and accessible meal plan. 

Gale Pearson

About Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES

Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 25 years of experience working with patients on dietary and nutrition wellness planning. Gale received her undergraduate degree from Hampton University and her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Howard University.

With extensive experience in nutrition counseling, Gale works with her patients to develop strategies to improve their eating habits and lifestyles, in turn helping them to manage their weight and medical conditions. She credits witnessing her patients’ symptoms and overall health improvement as a result of the lifestyle changes as one of the most gratifying and rewarding aspects of her career.

At TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg, Gale provides one-on-one consultations, nutrition and weight management counseling, and diabetes education.

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