Most all the parts of our bodies are made from protein: hair, skin, blood, organs, and muscles. It is needed for cells to grow. It also repairs or replaces healthy cells and tissues. Protein in food gives us calories - 4 calories in one gram. If we do not get enough calories from fat and carbohydrates we may use protein for energy. Most Americans, even athletes, get the protein they need without using special foods, powders or shakes.

Protein is made of chains of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Our bodies can make most amino acids. There are a few amino acids that we cannot make; so, we must get them from the foods we eat. They are known as "essential amino acids." Most foods that come from animals, such as fish, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt contain all of the essential amino acids. They are known as "complete" proteins. Plant foods, such as rice, dried beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, wheat, oats, corn, may be low or lacking in one or more of the amino acids. They are considered to be incomplete proteins. Incomplete proteins can be mixed together to make a complete protein.

To find out more about using incomplete proteins read the "Incomplete proteins" file.

To find out how much protein you need, "Ask the Nutritionist."

To test what you know about protein, take the Quiz on Protein.

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