High-quality protein is one of the most important nutrients required by your body. Approximately half of your body’s solid substances are made up of protein.
The Role Protein Plays in Your Body
Protein and its constituent amino acids transport nutrients and other molecules into and out of cells and provide the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, blood plasma, sperm and saliva. It is also required for the construction of muscles, hair and nails, nerves, skin and internal organs.
What Are Good Sources of High-Quality Protein?
Many people think that you have to eat meat, eggs and dairy products to get enough protein. It’s true that, unlike animal-derived foods, most plant-source proteins do not contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs (these are the amino acids your body cannot produce on its own).
However, as long as you eat a varied diet that includes foods like legumes and nuts, it doesn’t matter whether or not specific foods are “complete” proteins. For example, flaxseed is a great plant source of high-quality protein—a quarter cup of freshly ground flax contains almost 8 g of high-quality protein.
Other good sources of high-quality protein include fish and seafood, skinless poultry, eggs and egg whites, nonfat or low-fat cheeses and Greek yogurt, tofu, nuts, and soy and whey protein.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
For optimal health, you should aim for a serving (20–25 grams or four ounces) of high-quality protein with every meal. A serving size of animal protein is slightly larger than a deck of cards; a serving of plant protein is the size of a tennis ball.
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