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When we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fiber, sodium, and more. Eating more red meat predicts a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, while consuming nuts, legumes, and poultry is related to lower risk. Cancer When it comes to cancer, once again, the source of protein seems to matter more than quantity.

Premature death. Bone health.

9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body

Weight control The same healthy protein foods that are good choices for disease prevention may also help with weight control. Though some studies show benefits of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets in the short term such as the paleo diet , avoiding fruits and whole grains means missing out on healthful fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.

Other considerations involving protein. Protein foods and the planet Just as different foods can have differing impacts on human health, they also have differing impacts on the environment. Agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gas GHG emissions globally, the accumulation of which is driving climate change at a rate unprecedented in human history. However, not all foods have an equal impact.

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Production of animal-based foods tends to have higher GHG emissions than producing plant-based foods—and dairy and especially red meat particularly beef, lamb, and goat stand out for their disproportionate impact. Learn more about the impacts of different foods on your plate. The bottom line Protein is a key part of any diet.


The average person needs about 7 grams of protein every day for every 20 pounds of body weight. Because protein is found in an abundance of foods, many people can easily meet this goal. Building off this general guidance, here are some additional details and tips for shaping your diet with the best protein choices:.

Looking to reduce red and processed meats, but unsure where to start? Here are a few approaches to cutting-back while keeping your meals satiating and flavorful. Ready to see how much you know about protein and healthy protein foods? Try this 10 question quiz to find out:. Terms of Use The contents of this website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice.

How much protein does a person need?

You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products. Skip to content The Nutrition Source. Harvard T. The Nutrition Source expand child menu. Search for:. What is protein? How much protein do I need? For a pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

Animal-based foods meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods tend to be good sources of complete protein, while plant-based foods fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds often lack one or more essential amino acid.

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Table: Comparing protein packages. Heart disease Research conducted at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health has found that eating even small amounts of red meat—especially processed red meat—on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke , and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any other cause. One of the reasons why plant sources of protein are related to lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to protein from red meat and dairy is because of the different types of fat in these protein packages.

Plant-based protein sources are more unsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol—an established risk factor for heart disease. Also, plant sources contain no cholesterol. Other factors are likely to contribute to the lower risk, but this is a key factor. Cutting back on red meat could save lives: the researchers estimated that if all the men and women in the study had reduced their total red and processed red meat intake to less than half a serving a day, one in ten cardiovascular disease deaths would have been prevented.

In another study of 43, men that looked at both amount and sources of protein found that intake of total protein was minimally associated with heart disease risk, but intake of protein from red meat was associated with higher risk.

What are proteins?

The researchers compared people who ate diets with red meat with people who ate more of other types of foods i. For You Patient Handouts.

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  5. Start Here. Diagnosis and Tests. Related Issues. Statistics and Research. Clinical Trials. Article: Enteral lactoferrin for the treatment of sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis in Article: Thirteen weeks of supplementation of vitamin D and leucine-enriched whey protein Dietary Proteins -- see more articles. A protein molecule is very large compared with molecules of sugar or salt and consists of many amino acids joined together to form long chains, much as beads are arranged on a string.

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    There are about 20 different amino acids that occur naturally in proteins. Proteins of similar function have similar amino acid composition and sequence. Although it is not yet possible to explain all of the functions of a protein from its amino acid sequence, established correlations between structure and function can be attributed to the properties of the amino acids that compose proteins. Plants can synthesize all of the amino acids; animals cannot, even though all of them are essential for life. Plants can grow in a medium containing inorganic nutrients that provide nitrogen , potassium , and other substances essential for growth.

    They utilize the carbon dioxide in the air during the process of photosynthesis to form organic compounds such as carbohydrates. Animals, however, must obtain organic nutrients from outside sources. Because the protein content of most plants is low, very large amounts of plant material are required by animals, such as ruminants e. Nonruminant animals, including humans, obtain proteins principally from animals and their products—e.

    The seeds of legumes are increasingly being used to prepare inexpensive protein-rich food see human nutrition. The protein content of animal organs is usually much higher than that of the blood plasma. Muscles, for example, contain about 30 percent protein, the liver 20 to 30 percent, and red blood cells 30 percent.