Updated: Jul 26
Proteins are essential nutrients that are made from amino acids. They supply structure and bio-medical actions providing defense, protection, and necessary transportation in the body. The body requires 22 different amino to produce protein, of which two are only essential for children. The body either produces them or must obtain them through diet.
The Nine Amino Acids the body cannot make:
Histidine is essential in immune function, digestion, sleep, and sexual function.
Isoleucine produces hemoglobin and regulates energy, muscle metabolism, and immune function.
Leucine produces protein and growth hormones, repairs muscle tissue, and regulates blood sugar.
Lysine produces hormones and calcium and benefits immunity and energy.
Methionine stimulates zinc and selenium, benefiting growth, metabolism, and detoxification.
Phenylalanine produces your brain’s chemicals; dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Threonine produces collagen and elastin, providing the structure of the skin and blood clots.
Tryptophan maintains nitrogen balance and produces serotonin regulating mood and appetite.
Valine is responsible for muscle growth, tissue regeneration, and making energy.
The remaining eleven amino acids are nonessential and include; alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
Proteins are found in animal and plant products, but not all proteins are equal. Proteins containing the nine essential aminos are called “complete proteins,” while proteins containing some are called “incomplete proteins.”
Animal products: Fish, poultry, eggs, beef, pork, and dairy.
Vegetable products: Soy, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, millet, chia, amaranth, and buckwheat.
Legumes: Most beans
Grains: Whole “brown” grains have about 25% more protein than refined “white” ones.
Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
Vegetables: Generally low in protein, highest percentages in spinach, broccoli, sweetcorn, and potato.
Per the USDA, the recommended Dietary Allowance of protein is 0.8 grams per day per kilogram of body weight. Based on a 150-pound person, that equates to 55 grams per day (1.95 ounces). This might seem like a small amount, but this is the amount to maintain body structure and functions.
Many people worry they won't get enough protein, especially if they do not eat meat, but combing proteins can meet your daily needs, for instance: A breakfast cereal (oats) with some nuts and seeds and rice and lentils for dinner is sufficient. If you eat meat, you can get your daily amount from a small amount of animal protein.