Protein is an integral part of a healthy diet. It plays a key role in creating and maintaining cells of the bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. The average sedentary adult should consume between 40 and 60 grams of protein every day to prevent deficiency. If you exercise, that number may move slightly higher.
Protein is made up of essential amino acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own; therefore, one must obtain them through their diet. These amino acids are necessary for the growth and repair of tissue. Without them, your body would begin to break down its own muscles to obtain them. This is why getting your daily fix of protein through the foods you eat is crucial.
Let’s look at some reasons why protein is key to your diet and how to incorporate it:
Why Is Protein Important?
Protein plays a significant role in every bodily function, including facilitating cellular repair and growth. It also aids in the following:
- Muscle growth, development, and repair
- The creation of enzymes and hormones
- Hormone regulation
- Digestion, through facilitation of the creation of enzymes
- Blood clotting
- Immune system function
What Foods Contain Protein?
Protein is found in a wide range of food products, and it comes in multiple forms. Animal-based and plant-based sources of protein are rich in essential amino acids. Generally, animal-based products such as beef contain complete proteins, which provide all the essential amino acids. In contrast, plant-based products contain incomplete proteins, or those that lack certain amino acids.
Complete protein sources typically include:
- Milk and dairy products
- Soy products such as tofu
- Red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb
Incomplete protein sources typically include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Wheat germ
- Beans and legumes
Incorporating Proteins in Your Diet
Start with making minor changes to your diet, such as replacing that piece of toast with an egg or adding a beef portion to your favorite starch dish. If you’re transitioning away from a vegetarian or vegan diet and want to add meat back in, incorporate beef and other red meats slowly. Eventually, incorporating protein becomes a bit more adventurous, especially when you get used to proteins and start seeing positive results.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. It provides your body with the amino acids it needs to create enzymes and hormones as well as assists in basic bodily functions. There are many reasons why protein is key to your diet and many opportunities to incorporate it. Start with simple changes, and increase your intake as your body gets used to it.