Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Balance and Moderation the Key to a Healthy Diet, Part 2 - Protein

Low Carb Breakfast 090219Image by Cam Switzer via Flickr

This post is part two of mini-series on balance and moderation in your diet. As I mentioned in my previous post every food is broken down into its' basic components of protein, carbohydrates and fats. In order for you to learn to balance your diet you must know what these basic food components are and how your body uses them.

In this segment we'll talk about protein. Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body. Next to water, protein comprises the greatest portion of your body weight. Protein substances make up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids. It is essential for growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells. So, you can see the proper amount of protein in your diet is vital for your health and well-being.

Protein is comprised of building-blocks called amino acids. There are approximately twenty-eight commonly know amino acids that your body uses to create all the various combinations of proteins needed for survival. These commonly known amino acids are further classified as essential and nonessential amino acids. Nonessential amino acids can be produced in your body, while essential amino acids cannot be produced in your body and must be obtained from the foods you eat.

The sources of protein in your diet are classified as complete or incomplete. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids and are mostly from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself. Incomplete protein usually come from plant based sources such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. you must eat incomplete sources of protein in a combination that contains all the essential amino acids in order for your body to use them.

As I mentioned, you must get your essential amino acids from your diet because body cannot make them itself. Some of the best animal sources are fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy products. Some of the best vegetable sources are beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Now, I hope that you have a basic understanding of protein and why it is important in your diet. I my next installment I'll explain how much protein you should have in your diet and how to figure out your serving sizes so you can start balancing the foods you eat.
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