Elise Gordon M.S., RD/LD
Did you know that there are over 10,000 different proteins in our body?! Protein makes up so much of our body: our hair, skin, muscles, bones, and all other body tissues. You can imagine that this nutrient is very important. One reason it is so important is because we cannot store proteins as we store carbohydrates and fats—so our diet must give provide plenty to keep us maintain, repair, and build up our body.
What does protein do for us?
• It makes up our organs, skin, hair, muscles, bones, and tissues.
• It has an important part in our immune system and fighting off germs.
• It is a part of enzymes and hormones which help control many body functions.
• It helps to form blood cells.
• It is a part of every cell in our body!
Not All Protein is Created Equal
• Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. We use these building blocks to create new proteins in our bodies to use for muscle, hair, skin, etc.
• Complete Proteins: food sources with this kind of protein contain all the building blocks necessary to create new proteins. These proteins are found in animal products and soy products.
• Incomplete Proteins: food sources with this kind of protein do not contain all the building blocks we need to create new proteins. These proteins are found in plant products (fruits and vegetables).
Animal Proteins versus Plant Proteins
• Include both! They have great things to offer!
• Protein that comes from animal sources is a good source of complete proteins, iron, B vitamins, zinc, selenium. Try to include beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, fish.
• Protein that comes from plant sources is a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Try to include soy, nuts, sees, whole grains, beans, lentils, nut butters.
What protein do I eat?
• Remember the words: VARIETY, MODERATION, and BALANCE? This applies for choosing protein foods as well. Your goal should be to eat a VARIETY of different protein sources throughout the day from animals and plants!
• What if I’m a vegetarian?
• It is possible for a vegetarian to get all the proteins they need. The key is to mix and match your foods so that you get what you need. Make sure you get a variety and try out some soy products!
Are protein foods are fattening and unhealthy?
• No! Protein foods will not cause weight gain because of the fat they contain. Remember that weight gain is caused by consuming more calories than you burn.
• There are many lean meat foods (chicken, pork, turkey), foods with protein and heart healthy fats (fish, nuts, vegetable oils).
• Eating anything in moderation will not make you an unhealthy person!
How much protein do I eat each day?
• Your protein needs are based on how much you weigh. Your dietitian will help you to decide how many servings per day that you need.
• You can use this example as a guide. If you weigh more, you will need more. If you weigh less, you will need less: A person who weighs 150 pounds needs at least 55 grams of protein (8oz meat) per day.