You hear a lot about it and you know it’s important, but why is it essential to good health and good eating?
Proteins are the macronutrients that form the foundation of our diet. Protein builds new cells and regulates the metabolism and helps cells communicate. Proteins also shuttle oxygen throughout the body in the form of hemoglobin, as well as build muscle.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and it is essential that we consume these daily and in the right way. Our DNA directs the body to join various combinations of amino acids into a variety of sequences, each serving a unique function and feeding our bodies exactly what it needs.
We can store fats and carbohydrates to draw on when needed, but we do not have a storage pool of amino acids. We need to add to it each day in order to build the body proteins that we need. If we are missing a particular amino acid to form the protein it needs, it will pull that amino acid by breaking down existing muscle protein. Consistently lacking certain amino acids means we will lose muscle weight, energy and, eventually, fundamental body functions.
It is generally recommended that the a healthy person consume 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. A serious bodybuilder’s protein intake recommendations may be higher.
Here are the main sources of dietary protein:
Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish are complete sources of protein. They contain all of the essential amino acids.
Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and whole grains. However, in order to consume all of the essential amino acids, plant foods must be used to complement each other with their amino acid profiles. Beans tend to be low in one amino acid that grains have plenty of, so combining these foods forms a complete protein, like beans and rice.
Enjoy eating your daily protein and remember that centering on a protein diet promotes energy, weight loss and a million other things!