Protein is one of the three macronutrients that are essential in the diet to maintain health and well being. Protein has many functions but in general terms it is responsible for the growth and repair of cells and structures in the body. Protein, like carbohydrate provides 4 kilocalories (kcal) per gram consumed.
The amount of protein an individual needs varies on many factors such as their gender, age and physical activity level. As a guideline protein recommendations are calculated relative to an individual's body weight. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Below is an example;
If an adult weight 70kg, they will need; 70 * 0.75g/day = 52.5g minimum of protein per day.
Disadvantages of Inadequate Intake
Muscle atrophy, the reduction in lean body mass, muscular strength and function is a consequence of insufficient protein intake. Additionally, if energy (calorie) intake is below what is required, the body will break down muscle protein to support other bodily functions. The immune system, our bodies way of fighting infection and disease may also be compromised if protein intake is not sufficient.
Dietary Protein Sources
Protein is found in animal and plant - based food sources. Animal sources include meat, dairy products, eggs, chicken and oily fish. Plant- based sources include rice, potatoes, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
In the UK diet, protein intake comes from a variety of foods. It is not uncommon for the foods mentioned to contain saturated fat, however, if you are concerned about your saturated fat intake, consuming leaner types of meat and chicken as well as reduced fat dairy products will help you achieve your protein intake without consuming excessive saturated fat.