I remember being in elementary school, the teacher showing us the food pyramid. She tells us that proteins are very important, and that we should eat plenty of them to be healthy. High quality proteins are found in meat, eggs and dairy, she says. I believed her. She was an adult, and the foods she was talking about forms two of the four main groups on the food pyramid poster.
But who established the food pyramid as we know it and how did they selected the food to showcase there? I’m sure now that the teacher was well unaware of the political motivations that this tool represented. Who knew the great influence it would have on us? Most of us grew up eating meat and dairy products, and the few vegetarians and vegans are still haunted by the protein question. How many of have been haunted at some point by the little voice whispering: “maybe I’m not eating enough protein?”. And even if there’re more people turning to a vegetarian/vegan and other alternative diets, the million dollars question “Where do you get your proteins?” is still omnipresent.
Of course, proteins are essential for life. It’s the building blocks of our organs, tissue and muscles. Without it, we simply couldn’t exist. But exactly how much protein we should eat remains unclear. Let’s see what some impartial specialists say about that.
How much protein do we really need?
2 ½ % The lowest amount of required calories from protein is established by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Many of populations thrive with only 2 ½ % of calories coming from proteins.
4 ½% The OMS has established that a man weighing 68kg needs about 32g of proteins per day. Since 1g of protein contain 4 calories, this represents 4 ½% calories coming from proteins. In their official report, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science recommend eating 0,468g of protein per kilo per day, which also represents 4 ½% of calories from protein.
6% To the 4 ½% minimum recommended, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science adds a 30% security margin to fulfill the need of 98% of the American population. With this security margin, the suggested amount of calories from proteins jumps to 6%.
8% The National Research Council suggests a greater security margin and put the recommended amount at 8% of calories from proteins. This number does not represent the minimum required but rather represents the recommended intake that should satisfy more than adequately the needs of 98% of the population.
So we are far away than the 30% of calories from proteins advertised by some low carbs diets. Another thing to keep in mind is that virtually all fruits and vegetables contain some amount of proteins, and by eating a variety of food, we can easily get the required amount of proteins, with all the essential amino acids that our body needs.
Have you ever been concerned with your protein intake? Do you think you can get enough proteins on a plant-based diet? What’s your opinion on this?