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Eating Protein

Topic Overview

Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. Although the human body can make some of these amino acids, nine of them (the essential amino acids) must be obtained from food. Soy foods and animal sources of protein (milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood) contain all the essential amino acids in the amounts our bodies need.

Most plant foods contain some of the essential amino acids in varying amounts. Beans have some amino acids, and grains have other amino acids. Eating these different types of food throughout the day will provide your body with adequate protein. They complement each other to form a whole protein.

Complementary proteins

  • Beans and tortillas.
  • Black beans and rice.
  • Chili and corn bread.
  • Pita bread with hummus (ground garbanzo beans and sesame seed paste).

Foods that contain protein

Most adults should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein foods a day.

  • Lean meat, poultry, or fish. A cooked serving is 2 to 3 ounces. (3 oz is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.) You can use your hand to judge other portion sizes.
  • Protein isn't just found in meat. If you are a vegetarian or just looking for alternatives to meat, the following are equal to approximately 1 oz of meat:
    • ¼ cup cooked dry beans, peas, or lentils
    • ¼ cup tofu (about 2 ounces)
    • ½ ounce nuts or seeds (for example, 12 almonds or 7 walnut halves)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 Tbsp peanut butter or other nut or seed butter

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised November 14, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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