Status: 02.01.2024 17:24

Proteins are found in many animal foods, but also in plant foods such as broad beans. Our body needs the valuable protein to build and maintain muscles, among other things.

Along with carbohydrates and fats, proteins are one of the three main nutrients that the body needs. Animal protein is found in meat, fish, eggs and milk, among other things, while plant protein is found in seeds, mushrooms, grains, nuts and pulses such as lentils, peas or broad beans. The latter (also known as fava beans or broad beans) is currently coming back into fashion because its cultivation is very sustainable: it requires hardly any pesticides and no fertilizer because it stores nitrogen from the air on its roots.

Balanced diet covers protein needs

With a balanced diet, you can easily get the amount of protein that your body needs: just under a gram per kilogram of body weight per day. Protein ensures a lasting feeling of satiety, while carbohydrates make you feel hungry again after a short time. Recipes with lots of protein and few carbohydrates are therefore often recommended for losing weight.

Functions of protein in the body

In the body, proteins are involved in the formation of muscles and bones, for example. They also transport vital substances. Proteins are formed from so-called amino acids, which are linked and folded in countless combinations to form protein molecules. Proteins play an important role in the following areas:

  • Transport of fat and oxygen
  • Absorption of iron
  • Muscle function
  • Defense against pathogens
  • Repairing defective cells
  • Nail and hair health
  • Production of connective tissue and cartilage

This is how many grams of protein the body needs daily

The protein requirement can usually be easily met through a balanced diet – additional protein shakes are not necessary for healthy people. Every day, the body needs around one gram of protein per kilogram – based on normal weight.

  • For a body weight of 75 kilos, this corresponds to normal weight people (1.80 meters tall) has a protein requirement of around 75 grams.
  • Elderly and sick people need 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to maintain the mobility and function of their muscles.
  • Also for Competitive athletes and Pregnant women slightly higher quantities apply.
  • At Obesity (for example, 75 kilos and only 1.65 meters tall) the amount of protein recommended for people of normal weight is sufficient (in the example, about 65 grams of protein).

Further information

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Protein deficiency in old age

If you hardly move, you hardly get hungry – and eating alone is less fun. Unnoticed, many older people in particular easily develop a protein deficiency and lose muscle mass. If the body does not get enough protein, it switches to emergency mode and gets the missing amino acids from the muscles, which it basically digests. Muscle loss is therefore a typical consequence of protein deficiency. Those affected suffer from tiredness and lack of motivation, and muscle loss is also evident in pain when sitting because the buttock muscles are missing as a cushion.

Lack of appetite and difficulty chewing can trigger a protein deficiency, but digestion also changes with age: stomach acid production decreases, the absorption of nutrients from the intestines becomes less effective. Inflammatory processes in the body also increase the need for protein. All of this shows that protein deficiency in old age is indeed a problem – around one in three older people is affected by it. A protein-rich supplementary diet in the form of so-called astronaut drinks can help.

Protein content in foods

Ideally, the required protein ration should not be consumed all at once, but spread out over the day. If you remember a few guidelines, it is not difficult to estimate the protein content of foods.

This is how much protein is contained in food
GroceriesApproximate protein contentPortion example
Fish, meatapprox. 20% (13-30%)Fish fillet of 150 g: approx. 30 g protein
Legumes (peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas)24% (dry)
5-10% (cooked)
Dish with lentils (100 g): 7.5 g protein
Quarkapprox. 12%Bowl of quark of 150 g: 18 g protein
eggPiece: 6-7 g protein
milkapprox. 3%Glass of milk (200 ml): 6 g protein
Cheese, lean cold cutsapprox. 20%medium slice (30 g): 6 g protein
nutsapprox. 15% (10-25%)Handful of nuts (30 g): 5 g protein
Muesli, wholemeal bread, milletapprox. 10%Slice of wholemeal bread or portion of muesli (approx. 30 g): 3 g protein

Animal and vegetable protein in comparison

Basically, protein in plant and animal foods contains all nine essential amino acids. But there are differences:

  • Proteins of animal origin contain a higher amount of amino acids and are more similar in composition to human body protein than plant proteins. The more a protein resembles human proteins, the higher its biological value. The body can then use the protein more easily and convert it into its own protein.
Protein-rich foods from animals
GroceriesProtein content per 100 g
1. Parmesan cheese36g
2. Harzer cheese30g
3. Tuna (canned)26g
4. Turkey breast23g
5. Beef22-30g
6. Shrimps18-19g
7. Cottage cheese13g
8. Curd12g
9. Chicken egg7 g (per piece)
10. Yoghurt3g
  • However, it is healthier to eat Protein of plant originPlant-based protein sources contain many health-promoting substances such as fiber and secondary plant substances. However, not all of the proteins we need are found in all plants. Therefore, a purely plant-based diet depends on eating many different plants.
Protein-rich foods of plant origin
productProtein content per 100 g
1. Hemp seeds37g
2. Soybeans, rapeseed, lupine30-40g
3. Broad beans25g
4. Peanuts25g
5. Pumpkin seeds24g
6. Lenses24g
7. Chia seeds21g
8. Almonds21g
9. Quinoa14g
10. Oatmeal13g

Protein: Tips for a healthy diet

For a balanced diet, experts recommend

  • one third animal protein: You should avoid processed meat as much as possible and eat fish and white meat rather than red meat.
  • two thirds vegetable proteinHealthy and inexpensive sources of protein, even in a meat-free diet, are legumes such as lupins, chickpeas, lentils and beans.

Diabetics also benefit from pulses: just 200 grams a day can demonstrably lower blood lipid levels and long-term blood sugar.

However, anyone with kidney disease should be cautious with proteins: damaged kidneys could be over-stressed by filtering protein waste products from the blood.

Study: Animal protein can shorten life expectancy

A long-term study has shown that excessive consumption of animal protein can shorten life expectancy, while this is not the case with plant protein. The reason is not thought to be the protein itself, but rather that animal proteins are usually found in processed foods with unhealthy additives (including fat, phosphates and salt), while plant proteins from peas, beans, lentils, lupins or soy also contain healthy micronutrients (vitamins, polyphenols, trace elements) and secondary plant substances.

Further information

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The Nutrition Docs | 19.02.2024 | 9:00 p.m.