Nutrition Notes: Protein – Why is it Important?

We all need protein, but how much is enough? Most people (ages 9 and older) should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein-rich foods each day. What does 5 to 7 ounces look like? Well to keep things simple here are some common portion size equivalents:

– 3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry is equivalent in size to a deck of cards or iPod
– 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or hummus is equal to 1 ping-pong ball (2 ounces)
– ½ cup cooked beans is equal to the size of 1 baseball (1 ounce)
– ¼ cup of nuts is equal to the size of 1 golf ball (1 ounce)

Protein comes in many forms whether it is from meat, poultry, and beans or dairy, so why is protein an important component of a healthy diet? Proteins are made up of amino acids and play many critical roles in the body. Protein is the building blocks of all of the body’s cells. They are important for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. So without enough protein in our daily diets, it could lead to detrimental effects on the entire body. Some examples of not obtaining enough protein include:

– Being tired or experiencing less energy
– When injured it can take much longer to recover
– You may get sick more often

We all need protein, and it is also recommended to vary our protein sources, which would include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds). Frozen proteins are also beneficial as well because they last longer and can generally be used for multiple meals (i.e. a whole frozen chicken can be eaten for a meal, leftovers stored and the bones can be used to create a soup stock). Looking for additional protein tips and ideas on how to switch up your protein routine? Check out 10 Tips for Choosing Protein.