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Proteins, just like carbohydrates, are not all created equal. Different proteins are more effective than others. Animal complete proteins (milk, eggs, and meat), as well as vegetable complete protein soy, contain all the essential amino acids for proper body function, while non-animal proteins are incomplete.

Always try to eat proteins that are lean and low in fat (fish, poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy) and avoid those that have high fat content (fatty meats, sausage and bacon).

Why Proteins are Important: Proteins are crucial to building muscle and burning fat, and increasing and maintaining your metabolism. They:

  • Provide energy when carbohydrates are not available
  • Help transport nutrients throughout the body
  • Make essential hormones and enzymes
  • Provide structure for muscles, hair and blood, repair tissue and preserve lean muscle mass
  • Support the immune system
  • Assist growth

Daily Dietary Requirements*:
20% – 40%** of Caloric Intake

If diet has too little If diet has too much
  • Slower metabolism
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Increased fat
Excess protein is used for energy, excreted out of the body or turned into fat. Too much can lead to:

  • Shorter life expectancy
  • Increased cancer and heart disease risk
  • Decreased bone calcium
  • Kidney stress
  • Obesity
  • Urinary calcium excretion which is harmful for bone turnover, and can lead to osteoporosis
Types of Proteins What you Should know Foods Containing and Typical Serving Size
Complete Proteins
  • Complete proteins contain all the necessary amino acids that are the basic structural building units of proteins
  • Complete proteins are sufficient by themselves as a protein source
  • Eggs tend to be the best food source of complete proteins
  • Cheese – lowfat (1 oz)
  • Milk – lowfat (8 oz)
  • Eggs* (3)
  • Egg Whites (10)
  • Fish, Meat and Poultry – cooked (2 to 3 oz – a portion about the size of a deck of playing cards)
  • Peanut Butter (2 T)
  • Tofu – Light (4 oz. or 1/4 cup)
Incomplete Proteins
  • Incomplete proteins do not contain all the necessary amino acids for your body and as a result are not sufficient as protein sources
  • If you are a vegetarian, it is important that you are getting all the required amino acids you need. To do so, combine several incomplete proteins, which will form a complete protein
  • Examples of combined, complete plant proteins are rice and beans, milk and wheat cereal, and corn and beans
  • Beans, Legumes, lentils – cooked (1/2 cup)
  • Fruits (see Simple Carbohydrates)
  • Grains (see Complex Starchy Carbohydrates)
  • Nuts (1 T)
  • Vegetables – Cooked (1/2 cup)
  • Vegetables – Raw (1 cup)

*Caloric intake requirements vary from person to person. Understanding your personal needs is beneficial. To get an idea of what you need, refer to the ‘Caloric requirements calculator’ under ‘Nutritional Tools’.

** Note that percentage requirements are given in ranges because each individual’s needs vary depending on their level and kind of daily activity. If you tend to be very active, your diet will require more carbohydrates (to maintain your energy level). If you tend to do a lot of strength training, you will need a higher percentage of protein (to help build and repair muscle tissue).

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