From energy bars to peanut butter and from muesli to chips: nowadays the packaging of almost every supermarket product says ‘Packed with proteins’. But what are proteins anyway? And do we need a lot more of it? We ask professor of nutrition and health Jaap Seidell.
What are Proteins?
“Protein is an expensive name for protein. We need proteins for various physical processes. They mainly serve as building material. For example for muscle building and the repair of body cells.”
How Much Protein Do We Need?
“About 0.8 to 1 gram per kilo of body weight per day. Children need a little more, because they are growing. The elderly too, because the muscle mass decreases with age.”
“With the claim ‘with proteins’, manufacturers are responding to the gut feeling of consumers that products with proteins are healthy.”
Will we not make it? Is that why they are added to products?
“A normal diet consumes an average of 80 grams of protein per day. They are found in almost all foods. Animal proteins are found in meat, dairy, eggs and fish. Vegetable proteins can be found in nuts, grains and legumes such as beans and soy. So if you eat varied and according to the disk of five, you will easily get enough protein.
But why are they added to products?
“Marketing. With the claim ‘with proteins’ manufacturers are responding to the gut feeling of the consumer that products with proteins are healthy. In fact, they are not added to many products that contain that claim, because many products are already high in protein. Take, for example, peanut butter, a naturally protein-rich product. You already get 3 grams of protein per spread of bread.
“In itself, manufacturers aren’t lying when they say their products contain proteins. The claim is not false, but it is nonsense. ”
But isn’t that a deception?
“In itself, manufacturers are not lying when they say that their products contain proteins. The claim is not untrue, but it is nonsense. And it might be a little misleading to pretend that proteins make a product better or healthier. Take energy bars or chips. with extra proteins… These kinds of products are not that healthy at all. They are often bursting with sugars and fats. “
Bodybuilders swear by extra protein in the form of protein shakes. Also rubbish?
“Yes. For muscle recovery and build-up after a very hard workout, you need extra protein, but you can just as well take quark for that. Quark contains just as much protein per 100 grams as many so-called protein shakes that are available in fitness stores.”
“Quark is also a lot cheaper, because the proteins do not first have to be removed from the milk to be processed into ‘whey proteins’. Another advantage of quark: it contains all kinds of other healthy nutrients in addition to proteins.”
Can we get too much protein?
“Not with a normal diet. In principle, the body uses too much building material for fuel. But when you take in more fuel than you burn, the body stores that fuel as fat. Just like too much fat or too many carbohydrates, you can so getting fat from too much protein. “
Jaap Seidell is professor of nutrition and health at the VU University Amsterdam and wrote the books The Food Labyrinth and Juggling with Food, among other things.