Protein 101

A lot of people hear the word protein and think of bodybuilders and athletes, but the human body needs protein, whether it’s physically active or not. Protein is particularly important for sick or injured people who need to rebuild damaged or weakened tissue and muscles.

Proteins are made of amino acids that are folded together. There are essential amino acids- the ones the body can’t make on its own- and non-essential amino acids- the ones the body can make.

Proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids are considered ‘complete’, while those that lack in one or more of the essential amino acids are ‘incomplete’. Complete proteins come from sources such as meat, eggs, cheese, dairy, and soy. Incomplete proteins come from vegetables. The one exception to this rule is soy.

Anyone trying to be more health-conscious should make sure their daily protein intake is made up of complete proteins rather than incomplete ones. For most people, that isn’t a problem. If you’re trying to watch your fat intake, try lean cuts of beef, chicken, and turkey.

For vegetarians whose main source comes from incomplete proteins (vegetables), getting a variety of vegetables and whole grains throughout the day will ensure that all the essential amino acids are covered. Using soy protein (which is the only complete vegetable source of protein) is a great way for vegetarians to get their protein fix.

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Michael B.

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