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Protein: Essential For The Body, But Don't Consume Too Much

Protein's found in meat, fish, and eggs, but also in plants and vegetables.

We all need protein — it's an essential nutrient for the body. But consuming too much protein, in regular food or supplements, may have consequences.

Misti Jones is a nutritionist and diabetes educator with Parkland Hospital System.

Interview Highlights:

Importance of protein: “Protein is one of three macro-nutrients that the body requires for essential bodily functions and for energy. Protein is absolutely vital because you obtain nine essential amino acids from protein that your body can’t synthesize. And it’s necessary for tissue repair, to maintain healthy muscle and bone, it’s necessary for the body to synthesize hormones and enzymes that are required.”

Food sources of protein: "Most people think of animal sources – beef, pork, chicken, fish – but there’s also plant sources of protein, such as chia seeds. Nut butters are great sources of protein, as well as quinoa. Out of four ounces of an animal source, you can get almost 30 grams of protein versus from a plant source you can get eight to 10 grams per serving. If you’re a person who likes dairy, greek yogurt? You can get 15 to 20 grams of protein in a serving of greek yogurt."

How much protein we should consume daily: “On average, .8 grams per kilogram of body weight, and that amounts to about 56 grams of protein per day.”

What’s too much: “You can get the amount the body needs from regular food sources. You don’t have to switch over to the supplements (protein bars, protein shakes, protein powder, etc.) to get the right amount of protein. Excess protein? There are concerns with some of the data that’s coming from research projects: Can excess protein cause problems with kidney function? Does it lead to a more heightened risk of diabetes? Can it ultimately lead to a higher risk of cancer? Additional data is needed before we see what consumption of excessive protein will result in.”

Best advice: “A balanced diet with a variety of foods, and making sure you’re consuming them in moderation.”

For more information:

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.