The following is input from a visitor to our healthy eating website.  We appreciate hearing from our readers with questions, comments or guest blogs since the compendium of healthy eating information is large and complicated and is growing and changing all the time.  

Please feel free to add your feedback in the comments section if you have information or questions that will help further our pursuit of a healthy eating lifestyle! 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed!

Science of Protein

by Shii
(Delhi)

Shii's Question...

What is protein made up of?

Suzy's Answer...

Hi, Shii! Great question and one that is basic to understanding good nutrition.

Proteins are organic compounds made up of building blocks called "amino acids." There are about 20 common amino acids. Nine of them are considered "essential" because the body cannot make them, and therefore, they must be supplied by the food you eat.

This is important information because, if your diet does not contain enough of these essential amino acids, you may suffer the effects of protein deficiency.

Here is a list of the essential and non-essential amino acids:

Non-essential - You don't need to find these in food.

The following are amino acids that your body can produce from nitrogen, carbohydrates and fat.

Alanine
Arginine
Asparagine
Aspartic acid
Cysteine
Glutamic acid
Glutamine
Glycine
Proline
Serine
Tyrosine

Essential - You do need to find these in food.

Here is a list of the nine essential amino acids. These are the ones that your body cannot make on its own.

Histidine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Lysine
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Threonine
Tryptophan
Valine

Daily protein requirement can vary based on several factors, including age, gender, genetics, health and the quality of the protein. For this reason, we can only provide general guidelines to help you get an idea of how much protein you need.

Doing the math for daily protein requirement

One way to define protein needs, is to say that every day we need about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need about 52.5 grams of protein each day.

150 ÷ 20 = 7.5 7.5grams x 7 = 52.5grams

Ratio of protein to carbs and fats

Many healthy eating experts put it a different way by saying that we should get about 30% of our calories each day from healthy eating protein sources. Protein has about 4 calories per gram, so if you consume 2400 calories a day, about 720 of them should be from protein.

2400 calories x 30% = 720 calories

I hope this helps answer your question. Please feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

Here is a link to our protein page where you will find more information on this important nutrient:

Protein Facts

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