The Importance of Protein in a Balanced Diet

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Protein is an essential component of a diet. It helps the body repair damaged cells as well as make new ones.


What Is Protein, and Why Do I Need It?


Proteins are critical components of all tissues in the human body and have crucial roles in metabolism, immunity, fluid balance, and energy. The building blocks of protein are amino acids, which are divided into two groups: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are ones the body cannot produce. Therefore, it is essential we consume them from food. The body can synthesize non-essential amino acids. We do not need to consume them from food. The amount of essential amino acids in a protein will determine whether is it a complete (high-quality) protein or incomplete (low-quality) protein. Complete protein sources are typically derived from animal products such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. Soybeans are the most complete source of plant-based protein. Other plant-based sources of (incomplete) protein include legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.



How Much Protein Do I Need?


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight per day. Athletes need more protein than inactive individuals for multiple reasons. Regular exercise can both stimulate muscle growth and cause tissue damage, which is repaired by protein. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes.


Is too much harmful?


High-protein diets are not advised for people with chronic kidney disease or declined kidney function (or only one kidney). Medical evidence does not suggest that eating more protein increases the risk of kidney disease in healthy individuals. It is important to note that individuals (especially athletes) on a high-protein diet also require more water to help flush excess urea (a waste product from the breakdown of protein) from the kidneys.


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