Proteins are made up of amino acids and are considered to be the ‘building blocks’ for the many cellular functions of your body. There are 22 amino acids required by your body to maintain good health; 14 of these are produced by your body (these are classified as non-essential), and the other 8 must be consumed through the foods you eat (these are classified as essential).
All protein sources derived from animal sources (meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy) are valuable protein sources because they contain all the essential amino acids required by the body. Whilst some plant-based foods also contain protein (soy products, nuts, seeds, grains, lentils, legumes), they are generally lower in their protein content and are missing at least one of the essential amino acids. If you are a vegetarian, you need to ensure that you eat a good range of plant-based foods to ensure you are getting all of your essential amino acids.
It is important to eat sufficient protein as it is used by the body for:
- growth; especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women
- building and repairing tissue, including lean muscle tissue
- immune function
- making essential hormones and enzymes
- energy; if there are insufficient carbohydrates available in the body, it will use proteins
- preserving lean muscle mass.
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