The most important nutrient in old age is definitely ‘protein’. Protein, one of the three essential nutrients along with carbohydrates and fat, is closely related to muscle. This is because the key component of muscle is protein. As you get older, if you don’t eat protein-rich foods often and neglect exercise, your muscles will quickly disappear.
What happens to our body when we eat less protein?
Nutritional imbalance not only lowers immunity, but also causes many changes. You lose muscle mass and your basal metabolic rate drops. Basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy needed to sustain life. If your basal metabolic rate is high, you burn less calories because you burn more calories without using your body.
A lack of protein also affects blood sugar. When the muscle that uses glucose decreases, glucose consumption decreases and blood sugar rises. Nails and hair, which are made of a protein called keratin, also weaken. Fingernails become weak and break easily, and hair breaks.
Foods containing protein are classified into complete and incomplete proteins according to the type and content of amino acids. Complete protein contains enough essential amino acids that must be supplemented with food because it is difficult to synthesize in the body. It is a complete protein food such as beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products. Incomplete protein foods such as grains, nuts, and legumes also contain essential amino acids, but they are less abundant than complete protein foods.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
The recommended daily amount of protein according to the Korean Nutrient Intake Standards of the Ministry of Health and Welfare is 60g for men and 50g for women over 50 years of age. The protein content of each food is 19.8 g of pork, 23.0 g of chicken, 49.7 g of anchovy, 28.2 g of shrimp, 21.1 g of mackerel, and 12.4 g of egg based on 100 g.
Protein is essential for growth and life, but excessive intake is prohibited. According to a 2016 Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health research team, type 2 diabetes increased when protein was 20% or more of the total daily energy intake of general adults. There are also studies that show that eating a lot of animal protein increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Patients with chronic kidney disease should also be careful when eating a lot of protein, as it puts a strain on the kidneys.