On Guam, proteins are a staple in most households.
Dietary protein is essential for health due to the availability of amino acids. You can think of amino acids as building blocks that make up proteins.
The body uses amino acids for cell generation, hormone and enzyme function, growth and development, and other important functions such as supporting a healthy immune system.
Because of its vast functions, it is important to eat a variety of protein to promote overall health.
Complete and incomplete proteins
There are two types of proteins: complete and incomplete. This is based on the type of amino acids that are available in the protein source.
Animal proteins such as meat, fish, poultry, game, eggs, and dairy are “complete” proteins, meaning the contain all the essential amino acids to build proteins.
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Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body, and as a result, must come from the food we eat. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Plant-based proteins are “incomplete” proteins as they are usually low in one or more essential amino acids. However, they typically contain high amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and include foods such as legumes, soybeans, nuts, seeds, and grains.
Therefore, it is best to eat a variety of plant-based proteins to be able to get adequate amounts of each essential amino acids.
However, you can simply eat a combination of animal protein with plant protein to make complete proteins.
Be sure that you consume moderate amounts of animal protein as they may be high in fat content which may lead to an increase in daily calories.
Also, protein for plant source can contain high amount of carbs (legumes and grains) or fats (nuts and seeds).
If you are on a restrictive dietary plan due to your health status, be sure to talk with your dietitian or nutritionist to help you identify plant proteins that will keep you within your caloric needs.
Like carbohydrates, there is no one size fits all regarding the daily intake of protein.
Based on My Plate, people should get 10 to 35% of their daily calories from protein. On a 2,000 calorie dietary plan, this would be 50 to 175 grams of protein per day.
You can also base you protein needs on your body weight. The USA Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram daily.
For example, for a person weighing 150 pounds, their RDA for protein is 54 grams.
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However, athletes, older adults, those trying to gain muscle, and those trying to lose weight may benefit from a higher protein intake than the RDA.
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Some studies suggest that a protein intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilograms and as much as 2.4 grams per kilograms can help encourage weight loss while maintaining lean mass and muscle mass.
Nutrient goals should be discussed with a dietitian before starting any dietary plan.