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Macronutrients 101: What is Protein?

Protein is primarily known for its association with muscle repair but did you know that it is also used to make DNA, hormones, enzymes, and basically every cell/tissue in your body?  When digested, your body breaks down the protein into amino acids. There are 21 amino acids that humans use, 9 of which are essential to your body’s nutrition.

Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body, so they must be obtained through the food we eat.  Complete protein sources contain all 9 essential amino acids (ex. meat, eggs, and other animal sources).  Incomplete protein sources are missing a few essential amino acids and are usually plant-derived (grains, veggies, fruit).  Complementary proteins are two incomplete proteins paired together to provide all 9 essential amino acids.  Legumes/grains or legumes/nuts are great examples of complementary proteins.

I know what you’re thinking – should I worry about pairing proteins at every meal?  Nope!  As long as you are consuming a balanced diet and eat animal products, there’s no need to worry about pairing proteins!  However, if your diet specifically eliminates food groups, like a vegetarian or vegan, pay closer attention to your protein intake and pairings.

Sources of Protein

1) Meat/Poultry/Seafood

2) Eggs

3) Nuts/Seeds

4) Beans/Peas

5) Soy

6) Protein supplements (usually derived from dairy, egg, soy, or pea protein)

Food for thought:  Animal products are a complete source of protein but be sure to choose leaner cuts of meat or low fat dairy products.

Questions about protein?  Our CoreLife Registered Dietitians are here to help!  Contact your local CoreLife office or visit us on Facebook @corelifemd.

Megan Lautz, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT

Author Megan Lautz, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT

More posts by Megan Lautz, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT

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