Protein is one of the essential macro nutrients needed by the body. It consists of basic units called amino acids. The body uses these units to makeprotein for building, repairing and maintaining muscles, bones, blood, organs, tissues, cartilage, hair and nails. Protein also helps in blood clotting, hormone production and fluid balance. Additionally, it assists in the production of structure for cells within the body.
Because the body’s proteins are continuously being broken down, they have to be replaced daily. Twenty-two different amino acids are important to humans’ health. The body can make 13 of them. The other nine have to be provided by protein-rich foods in the diet; therefore, they are essential amino acids.
A complete or high-quality protein is one that supplies all the essential amino acids. Sources of this protein are meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and diary products which are all animal-based foods. The only plant-based protein source that is complete is soy.
An incomplete or complementary protein lacks or is low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Sources of this protein are legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and some vegetables and fruits provide small amounts of protein.
Since protein is of great importance in the body, there is a daily-recommended dietary allowance. Children 1-3 years require 13 grams of protein daily. For children 4-8 years, the daily requirement is 19 grams. However, children 9-13 years need 34 grams each day. Girls 14-18 years need 46 grams of protein daily, but boys 14-18 years require 52 grams each day. Women 19-70 plus years need 46 grams of protein daily. However, the daily requirement ofprotein for men 19-70 plus years is 56 grams.
Protein is essential in the body because of the many functions it performs. It is important to eat protein-rich foods. These foods give the body the amino acids it needs to make proteinsrequired by the body.