Protein is an essential macronutrient in the diet.
1 gram provides us with 4 kcal of energy and is made up of 20 different amino acids. These amino acids are joined together to form muscle, hormones, enzymes, DNA, and antibodies. Some of these amino acids are essential in the body which means they can’t be produced in the body and have to be provided through diet.
Protein has many roles in the body. It is the building blocks for our body and is involved in many body functions.
The average person needs between 0.8 and 1g/kg for normal body functions. This is approximately only 15% of our total energy intake. Athletes and some medical conditions may have higher needs. Weight loss diets may also benefit from higher protein intake. However, it is important not to over-consume protein as very high intakes may result in organ damage and be at the expense of consuming other macronutrients (Carbohydrates, & Fat).
It is important to include good quality options in the diet. It can be found in both animal and plant sources. Only animal sources are ‘complete’ as they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids. These include dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish.
Plant sources are ‘incomplete’ (except for soy) as they don’t contain all the essential amino acids. Plant sources have to be eaten in conjunction with other sources that contain the missing essential amino acids to become complete. Plant-based sources include legumes, nuts, and seeds, vegetables, grains, etc.
The quality is determined by its biological value. This is the availability of the protein and the body’s ability to utilize it. Foods that are of good quality include milk, whey, and eggs. These are followed by fish, beef, and poultry.
Food options also come with plenty of micronutrients so a variety of different food sources will give you plenty of micronutrients. It is not difficult to get enough protein from your food. Just ensure you are choosing sources that are high quality and avoid processed options.