Ana Gabriela Avendano The Signal
Proteins are part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. They are found in foods such as meats, poultry, fish, legumes (dry beans and peas), tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, milk and its derivative products, grains, some vegetables and some fruits.
“Protein is needed by the body for tissue synthesis and repair,”explains Denise Cazes, lecturer of fitness and human performance at UHCL who teaches a nutrition class in which students learn about eating healthy and staying fit.
The cells in our body must be replaced continuously, but when exercising, muscle tissue is damaged. Ingesting dietary protein assists with the repair of the tissue, hence strengthening the muscle fibers.
Our bodies need a certain amount of protein, but more is not always better. Too much protein can have negative effects on the body.
The FDA’s food guide pyramid suggests people start their day with plenty of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables and fruits. Add two to three servings from the milk group and two to three servings from the meat group, and go easy on fats, oils and sweets.
“Food sources of protein include plant and animal options,” Cazes said. “Meat, chicken, fish and diary provide complete proteins containing all nine essential amino acids. Plant sources of protein include beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and small amounts in some vegetables.”
Protein needs vary depending on a person’s lifestyle. For example, a sedentary individual meets his/her protein needs with a normal diet following the food guide pyramid recommendations.
“Salads for fiber, carbs for energy and steaks for iron and additional protein and also drink lots of water,” said Tabatha Bognar, a communication major who exercises regularly. Bognar said she gets her protein by making sure she eats healthy every day.
Individuals who exercise strenuously need extra protein. Protein bars can be part of a daily diet because they are high in nutrition and protein, which can give extra energy through the day without requiring a person to eat a full meal. Unfortunately, some take this to the extreme and over consume.
“Some bars and shakes have a high caloric value and might be intended as meal replacements rather than a snack, so watch the calories in bars and shakes,” Cazes said.
Christopher Seiter, humanities major, works out five times a week. He started drinking protein shakes when he was 19 years old. At the time he weighed 135 pounds and wanted to add more muscle mass. Now 22 years old, he believes a lot of people who take protein supplements do it because of peer-pressure and lack of information.
“People should not feel the need to take these ‘magical’ protein supplements to get healthier, lose weight and/or gain muscle,” Seiter said. “It is very possible to meet your physical goals naturally without increasing your chances of something going wrong with your heart.”
Protein is important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy. A diet high in protein, especially meat, can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout, a kind of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood and causes joint inflammation. A high-protein diet may also put a strain on the kidneys.
“If your body doesn’t need as much as you consume, the protein will not be needed for tissue repair and will be stored as body fat,” Cazes said. “Excess protein has also been shown to contribute to gout, kidney problems and osteoporosis.”