Where’s the beef (the 411 on protein)

Protein is another nutrient that is important to include into your eating regimen. It should make up only 25% of your plate at each meal.

How much should I eat a day?

You should strive to get 5 1/2 ounces of protein a day (amount based on a 2000 calorie meal plan).

What counts as an ounce?

– 1 ounce cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish

– 1 egg

– 1 tbsp peanut butter

– 1/4 cup cooked beans

– 1/4 cup tofu

– 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds (about 12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)

– 2 tbsp hummus

Functions of protein

Protein has a few different functions in the body. It helps provide energy; builds and repairs skin, muscles, and nerve tissues, carries oxygen in the blood to all parts of your body, and helps fight infection.

What types of foods contain protein?

Meats are not the only foods that contain protein. Although some nutrients (such as iron, b vitamins, and vitamin k are found more-so in your meats, protein can be found in a variety of sources). They include

– beans

– beef

– chicken

– eggs

– fish

– lentils

– nuts

– peas

– pork

– seeds

– shellfish

– soybean products

– turkey

What if I’m a vegetarian?

As you can see from above, you do not need to eat meat to get your recommended amounts of protein. If you are a vegetarian, you may want to pay closer attention to your intake of iron, b vitamins, and vitamin k but there are many meals you can make to get the necessary amounts of protein in your diet. Quinoa is a great example of a food that contains all of the essential amino acids needed by your body. Which brings me to my next point, not all proteins are created the same.

Breakdown of proteins

Proteins are made up of amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins. Some foods contain only some amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids (meaning your body cannot make these amino acids on its own so you need to provide them through your dietary intake). This means there are 11 nonessential amino acids (which means adults can make these on their own). A chart of these amino acids is below.

The important thing to remember is that not every food you eat is going to contain all of the essential amino acids. Some foods do, like quinoa (making it a complete protein). I’ve also read that foods made from soy (such as tofu) also contain all of the essential amino acids. For the most part though, you need to eat foods that will complement each other in regards to their amino acids, meaning foods that when eaten together, will produce a complete protein. Here are a few examples of foods that when eaten together, form a complete protein:

  • Grains… with Dairy
  • Nuts/Seeds… with Dairy
  • Nuts/Seeds… with Legumes
  • Dairy… with Nuts/Seeds and Legumes
  • Legumes… with Nuts
  • Legumes… with Grains
  • Legumes… with Seeds
  • Legumes… with Dairy

Here is a chart of the essential and nonessential amino acids:

Essential Nonessential
Phenylalanine Arginine
Valine Alanine
Tryptophan Asparagine
Threonine Aspartic Acid
Isoleucine Cysteine
Methionine Glutamic Acid
Histidine Glutamine
Leucine Glycine
Lysine Proline
Serine
Tyrosine
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