There are three major nutrients that our body needs, protein, fats and carbohydrates. Protein is so important for the maintenance of muscles, healthy cells, and a strong immune system.
Amino acids make up protein, and there are 9 that are essential. Essential means we do not store amino acids, so they need to be consumed every day through our diet.
- Complete Proteins have all 9 essential amino acids: milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, fish, poultry and red meats. An exception is quinoa – although it is a grain it contains all essential amino acids.
- Incomplete Proteins are lacking one or more essential amino acids. But, when combined with another food, they form a complete protein – so cool. Examples are legumes, grains, vegetables and nuts: peanut butter on oatmeal bread, cashew-brown rice stir fry or bean soup with cornbread.
How much protein do we need each day? Count on 8 grams protein per 20 pounds of body weight. You’ll need more during pregnancy and nursing, after an injury or surgery, and during an illness. Also, if you are an athletic, your body will want more protein to build new muscles.
By age 40, we lose about half a percent of muscle mass every year. And as we continue to age, this can really impact our mobility, or lack of resistant to disease and infections. So be sure to eat lean healthy protein sources throughout your life!