(formally known as polypeptides) are organic compounds made of amino acids. Proteins are essential parts of our bodies since they are key actors in virtually every bodily process. For example, many proteins come in the form of enzymes that are catalysts for metabolizing our food. Proteins play structural and mechanical functions making up our muscle and scaffolding of our cells. Other proteins act as signaling agents, are key to our immune system, and build the cells that make up our bodies.
We need to obtain enough protein through diet since the body cannot synthesize all the amino acids needed for all of these functions. With the right amount of protein, the body can obtain the essential amino acids it needs to process them into free amino acids which are then used in metabolism and body function.
Some of the protein we eat contains all the amino acids needed to build new proteins (called complete proteins
). Animal based food usually contains complete proteins. Incomplete proteins lack all of the essential amino acids, and usually are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Vegetarians need to be vigilant about protein since their diet doesn't contain animal based meals that are rich in complete proteins.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that, on a daily basis, 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of normal/healthy weight
(or 0.8 grams/Kg). Americans tend to get plenty of protein, and in fact may get too much animal protein, which can lead to heart disease.
Using a MealMixer Diet Planner
will show you how much protein you're getting for each meal, day and average over the week.