Protein: A Macronutrient
Protein is a nutrient.
- One of 3 macronutrients required by the body (along with carbohydrates and healthy fats).
- Proteins are long chains of amino acids (amino acids are the literal building blocks for the body). There are 20 amino acids and our bodies makes only 11 of them – the other 9 come from diet. We use the 20 amino acids to build all kinds of protein (about 10,000 in all!) – like hair, muscle or skin, just to nam a few.
- Proteins are divided into two main categories – complete and incomplete
- Daily requirement is roughly 7 grams per 20 pounds of body weight (or 49 grams for a 140-pound person). A different way to calculate? 10-35% of daily caloric intake should be from protein. One gram of protein provides 4 calories (carbs also provide 4 calories per gram and fats provide 9 calories per gram).
Bottom Line: Protein is essential and must be included in a healthy diet.
There are 2 main categories of protein, complete and incomplete. The names say it all. Complete protein sources provide all of the essential amino acids and are those generally found in animal based foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese. Incomplete protein sources are those low in one or more essential amino acids – usually plant based. However, incomplete proteins and be complemented with others, resulting in adequate amounts of all essential amino acids – think rice and beans, for example.
What’s Better for You?
There’s a lot to consider. For those who want to include animal protein sources, it’s good to know that some are better for you than others. For example, beef is an excellent source of complete animal protein, however grilled salmon is lower in saturated fats and contains Omega3. Beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables all contain protein, but if you don’t want to eat animal sources, make sure you are eating the right combinations to ensure the proper daily intake. Make wise dairy choices – yogurt is a good source of protein, but real Greek products tend to have fewer calories and less sugar, so read the labels.
How to Choose?
- What taste good to you? Eating should be a pleasant experience.
- What makes you feel better?
- What are your personal health concerns?
- Do you want to include soy products?
The important thing is to ensure that your diet provides adequate protein, preferable from a mix of different quality sources.