Friday, July 23, 2010


To most people, protein means meat. The term ‘meat’ includes chicken, fish and game, not just beef, lamb and pork. Meats form a big part of the protein group but nuts, legumes, tofu, eggs and cheese also belong in the same category.

Protein is essential for growth and repair of muscle and tissue, for regulating metabolism and boosting the immune system. People who are ill or coping with a lot of stress need extra protein for energy.

Women who are pregnant or breast feeding also need additional protein – and extra 6gm per day during pregnancy and an extra 11gm a day while breast feeding.

Growing children need proportionally more protein than adults because they are building bones and muscles. For example; 1-2 year olds need approximately 60gm protein per day increasing gradually to 60 – 110gm by age 5 to a maximum of 170gm by age 12, then tapering off to healthy adult levels by age 18.

You can calculate the amount of protein foods an adult needs per day with this formula:
W times 0.8 = gm of protein required, where W equals body weight.
So, for example, if you weigh 60kg you need 60 x 0.8 = 48gms of protein per day. That is very little, and far less than most people eat. If you order a steak in a restaurant – even a ‘lady’s steak’ – it will weigh in excess of 100gm, often as much as 250gm!

Eating an excess of protein forces the liver to break down the amino acids – which will be stored as fat or excreted through the kidneys. This places an extra burden on the liver and kidneys. A high protein diet causes calcium loss from the bones, as well as increasing uric acid blood levels contributing to gout and arthritis.

This makes our ever popular South African braais look like poison-on-a-plate!There is much to be said for having a protein-free day at least once a week.

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