The Importance of Protein in Our Diet

Protein is a vital macronutrient that must be included in our daily diet. Numerous food sources contain protein, but they are not all equal. Additionally, the requirement for protein varies from person to person.

What is Protein?

  • Proteins are macromolecules made up of amino acids.

  • Protein is found in various parts of the body, including muscle, bone, skin, and hair.

  • Protein is essential for the structure, function, and regulation of tissues and organs.

  • Proteins also make up enzymes that facilitate chemical reactions in the body.

Sources of Protein

All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, pulses, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds are part of the protein foods group. Animal-based foods are sources of complete protein, which contains all the essential amino acids. Plant-based foods are excellent sources of protein but often lack one or more essential amino acids. Therefore, it’s crucial to eat a variety of protein-containing plant foods to obtain a complete protein.

Essential Amino Acids

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and their sequence determines the unique protein structure and its specific function. Nine amino acids are essential, meaning they must come from food since the body cannot produce them. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Protein Foods

Animal-based foods are sources of complete protein, which contains all the essential amino acids. Plant-based foods are excellent sources of protein but often lack one or more essential amino acids. Therefore, it’s crucial to eat a variety of protein-containing plant foods to obtain a complete protein. Legumes combined with whole grains provide complete protein, such as brown rice with lentils or hummus with whole-grain pita bread.

“Opting for plant-based sources of protein is a win for both your health and the health of the planet”.

Protein Requirements

The protein Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is about 15% of daily calories or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Endurance sports or weight training may increase the need for protein. Studies suggest that as we age, we may benefit from eating more protein since it helps prevent muscle loss.

Best Quality Protein Sources

The best quality protein sources in terms of amino acids are quinoa, eggs, tofu, fish, meat, beans, and lentils. Plant-based proteins offer healthy fiber and are naturally low in saturated fats. It’s essential to avoid consuming too many animal-based proteins and choose other healthy food options.

While many vegetables and fruits do contain protein, the amount is generally smaller when compared to other plant-based foods. However, vegetables such as corn, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and artichokes are known to contain higher levels of protein.

Conclusion

In summary, the top-notch protein sources with optimal amino acids are quinoa, eggs, tofu, fish, meat, beans, and lentils. Plant-based proteins are an ideal source of healthy fibre, and they have low levels of saturated fats. To maintain good health, it’s recommended to limit animal-based proteins and incorporate other nutritious and delicious food choices. Whenever feasible, opt for protein-rich plant foods.

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