Weatherford Democrat

Extension News

April 27, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Vary your protein choices

By KATHY SMITH

Most people’s health would benefit from getting more variety in your protein rich food choices. Protein-rich foods are essential for many functions of the body. Our muscles are primarily protein, but did you know that protein provides structure for all cells in the body? Typically protein makes up about 15 percent of a person’s body weight. Protein is needed for growth. It also helps maintain healthy organs, bones, joints, skin, hair and blood cells. It is formed into essential hormones, vitamins, enzymes and important cell components. Proteins also help to transport molecules from one place in the body to another. 

Foods that are rich in protein are also rich in other nutrients. For instance, many protein foods are excellent sources of B vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and B12. They also contain vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium and healthful omega 3 fats. Also the provide energy and satisfy our appetites. 

There are seven categories of protein-rich foods:

• Cooked dry beans and peas such as great northern or navy beans, lima beans, pinto beans, green peas, soy, tofu and texturized vegetable protein.

• Dairy produce such as milk yogurt and cheese.

• Eggs usually from chickens.

• Finfish and shellfish including anchovies, bass, haddock, halibut, shrimp, tilapia, and tuna.

• Nuts and seeds such as almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, squash seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts.

• Poultry including chicken, turkey, emu, and goose.

• Red meats such as beef, pork lamb, venison and organ meats.

The amount of protein that is required for good health depends on whether enough total calories are being eaten. If a person does not eat enough carbohydrates and or fats for their energy needs, then the protein eaten is converted into energy rather than being used to support growth and maintain health. Most adults need only 36 to 72 grams of good quality protein per day.  For nutritional needs and reducing the risks of chronic disease, adults should eat 10 to 35 percent of their total calories as protein.

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