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do you think about when you hear the word protein? Maybe it's an ad for
some protein shake that promises massive muscles? Or is it the last high-protein
diet craze you read about? With all this talk about protein, you might think
Americans were at risk for not eating enough. In fact, most of us eat more
protein than we need. Protein is in many foods that we eat on a regular basis.
What is Protein?
Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our
bodies. These body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The
protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to
replace these proteins in our bodies.
As we mentioned, most adults in the United States get more than enough protein to meet their needs. It's rare for someone who is healthy and eating a varied diet to not get enough protein.
What are the types of protein?
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as
the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to
make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can't be made by our
bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It's essential
that our diet provide these.
For example, rice contains low amounts of certain essential amino acids; however, these same essential amino acids are found in greater amounts in dry beans. Similarly, dry beans contain lower amounts of other essential amino acids that can be found in larger amounts in rice. Together, these two foods can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids the body needs.
How much protein do I need?
Maybe you've wondered how much protein you need each day. In
general, it's recommended that 10–35% of your daily calories come from protein.
Below are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for different age groups.2
Added together, just these four sources would meet the protein
needs of an adult male (56 grams). This doesn't count all the other foods that
add smaller amounts of protein to his diet.