What are proteins made of and what makes them so powerful? Proteins are made of essential and non-essential amino acids. There are nine that your body can’t make and the only way we get them is from food sources, these are referred to as essential. Non-essential are the opposite, our body makes the amount we need, and no additional food sources are needed. These amino acids link together in different combinations throughout our body and in the variety of protein food sources, we choose to eat. Eating protein food sources regularly is a critical component of a healthy body since our body can’t store the essential amino acids and we always need new ones.
Protein provides different functions for our body including helping to grow and repair cells, regulate body functions, and is a source of energy. We can find protein all throughout our body and we need it to help replace cells every few months. To make this happen to choose enough sources of protein throughout the day gives your body the superpower it needs to maintain instead of breaking you’re your muscles to meet your body’s needs. Regulating body functions helps to speed up chemical reactions that happen in our body, maintain proper fluid balance, help fight disease-causing bacteria and viruses since your skin is made of protein, allows your body to move and muscles to contract, and much more. Our body receives energy from our food in the form of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. As most of our body’s energy does not come from protein, it does supply fuel for brain health.
How much is enough and how much is too much? According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), healthy adults aged 19 and older its suggested 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The recommended amount is higher for infants, children, teens, and pregnant or nursing women. Extra protein is not going to harm you, but it might not help either. The extra consumed from food is not stored and can lead to excess calories which can result in weight gain. The best sources of protein are going to be meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some way that we can ensure we are meeting our protein needs is by spreading it throughout our day. Start your day with milk in your cereal, sprinkle chopped nuts on your cereal or yogurt, peanut butter on toast, or enjoy a scrambled egg. For lunch, take your salad to the next level by adding a whole grain such as quinoa which is high in protein, or add some shredded chicken, turkey, tuna, or beans. For a snack, mix it up with hummus and veggies or a snack on string cheese. Finishing your day with protein does not mean filling your entire plate with mostly protein. A serving the size of a deck of cards which is about 3 oz. paired with grains and fruits and vegetables can give you the balance your plate needs to help you achieve your health goals. When selecting proteins focus on lean, which means less than 10 grams of fat and less than 4.5g of saturated fat. The key to using the superpowers protein has are variety, proportion, and balance!