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Protein Is Essential for the Human Body

Nutrition is food for cells and organisms. Proteins are basic structural and functional elements in every cell of the body. All cells and tissues contain protein; thus, protein is necessary for the growth, repair and the maintenance of good health.


Protein in Nutrition

Proteins are building materials. They also create the enzymes that control chemical activity in the body. Each protein molecule is made up of amino acids. The body needs these to create new and replace damaged proteins. Since the body does not store proteins, they must be provided in a person's diet.

About 20 amino acids are found in the human body, and about 10 of these are vital and must be part of a diet. A diet that has a lot of proteins is particularly important during early growth and maturation, pregnancy, or injury.

These acids are found in animal sources such as meats, fish and eggs. Proteins are also available in plant sources: whole grains, pulses, legumes, soy, fruits, nuts and seeds.

It is possible to combine two incomplete protein sources to make protein combinations. Complementary sources don't need to be eaten together to be combined in the body. Sources of dietary protein include tofu and other soy-products, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.

Protein provides the body with 10 to 15 percent of its energy and it is the second most plentiful compound in the body, following water. A large part of this is muscle (43 percent) with major amounts being present in skin (15 percent) and blood (16 percent).

Protein combining is the practice of vegetarians, particularly vegans, to eat certain foods, like beans and rice, together, so that plant foods with incomplete proteins combine, meeting bodily protein requirements.

While beef and chicken are easy protein fixes, these foods are better avoided in large amounts because of their high fat and cholesterol content. Legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, dairy products and eggs are the foods that will mix and match well to meet all protein needs. By combining these foods, everyone gets the eight essential amino acids that are present in meat food sources.

Dietary Guidelines

Protein is an important nutrient that is essential for growth and development. All of the cells of the body need protein. Protein is an important source of calories and energy. Both plant-based and animal-based foods provide protein.

It is recommended that individuals give emphasis to plant sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, soy products and unsalted nuts. These high-protein foods have an added bonus of being high in health-enhancing nutrients, more than animal sources. Eating seafood twice a week and meat, poultry and dairy products that are lean or low-fat is best. Getting 10 to 35 percent of one's total calories a day from protein is required. Protein has 4 calories per gram. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this is about 200 to 700 calories a day, or about 50 to 175 grams of protein a day.

Nutritional Science