Protein is a nutrient that is essential for life. Proteins make up a large part of our muscles, organs and glands, and they help build and repair body tissue. Growth and development in children and adolescents is largely dependent upon proper protein intake. Proteins also strengthen the immune system, manufacture hormones and antibodies and preserve the acid-alkali balance in the body.

Like carbohydrates, one gram of protein yields four calories. The following calculation demonstrates the number of protein grams consumed in a diet comprised of 30% protein:

If an adult consumes 1,800 calories per day, the calculation would be:

1,800 (calories) x 0.3 (30%) divided by 4 (calories per gram) = 135 grams of protein

Types of protein
The building blocks that make up proteins are called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids in total; nine are classified as essential, meaning the body cannot synthesize them, so they must come from the diet. The remaining 13 are non-essential, meaning the body can synthesize them so they do not have to be derived from food sources. Proteins are divided into two categories:

  • Complete proteins
  • Incomplete proteins

Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids. They are found in meat and other animal products such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and milk products. Incomplete proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids. Examples of incomplete proteins are grains, legumes, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Incomplete proteins can be combined to make complete proteins, such as:

  • Rice and beans
  • Cereal and milk
  • Beans and corn
  • Bread and cheese

Protein-rich foods
A nutritionally balanced diet with adequate amounts of protein is essential for optimum health. It is important to include a variety of lean proteins into your diet such as cold-water fish, poultry without the skin, lean meat, turkey, eggs, lowfat dairy products and dried beans, lentils and legumes. To learn more about proteins and how to maintain hormonal balance in your diet, please visit the 40:30:30 Method of Eating.

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