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We may need more protein than we previously thought.  How can we use protein we can accept in our lifestyle. Read More

It is true! Protein needs are greater than we think and Health Canada has downplayed the importance of protein over the past 20 years. Meat protein, egg protein, fish protein and vegetable protein are great sources but we cannot stop using dairy or meat protein unless we are prepared to increase the vegetable protein significantly in our diet. Currently many students are no longer drinking milk and are missing approximately 30% of their dietary protein. Canada's food guide is misleading in this regard. It assumes that 2 servings of meat or alternates a day are adequate if we are taking dairy in our diet. Those choosing to eliminate dairy or meat in the diet will require a nutrition assessment to determine how to replace the protein and the nutrient lost without these food groups.

Protein is made up of a family of amino acids 20 of which are essential and cannot be made by our body. The only proteins that are complete (contain all 20 essential amino acids) are meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish and seafood. The vegetable proteins are all missing at least 1 amino acid. The missing protein must be made-up at each meal by adding a source of the missing amino acid (More in the Vegetarian section).

Too much protein in the diet can lead to an excess of urea in the body and the urea has to be eliminated through our kidney's. It can also contribute to obesity. However, too little of the right proteins can be harmful. Protein supplies the building blocks for regular body structure turnover, enzymes and hormones as well as our immune system. If there are not enough carbs in the diet, then protein will be used to make carbs as a priority. Too little carbs and protein can cause mild edema (fluid retention) that some students mistake as weight gain, resulting in even more dietary restrictions. A nutritional assessment can help determine the cause of the problem.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

The requirement for protein depends on age, sex and physical demands. The usual range is 1-2 gms of protein per kgm of body weight. Sedentary individuals only need about 1 gm per kg body weight. Endurance athletes, weight lifters and rowers need 2 gms per kg body weight. Dietitians are very careful with weight loss diets to maintain a balance of protein and carbohydrate so the weight loss is body fat not active muscle mass. Vegetarians should always seek the advice of a dietitian to balance their diet for essential nutrients and protein.