Protein is a nutrient necessary for growth, tissue repair, hormone and enzyme manufacture and immune function. Protein also helps to preserve lean muscle mass and provides energy when carbohydrates are insufficient. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids. Protein from animal sources contains all the essential amino acids. By eating the right combinations of plant protein, you can get all of the essential amino acids.
You should get between 10 and 35 percent of your total calories from protein. For a person on a 2,000-calorie diet, that means consuming 50 to 175 grams of protein per day.
Poultry, meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, nuts and legumes are sources of protein. Starchy foods also contain smaller amounts of protein. In your diet, emphasize protein from plants, including soybeans, dried beans and lentils, MayoClinic.com recommends. Select lean meat and include seafood twice a week, if possible.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most Americans don’t need to increase their protein consumption. Current nutritional information focuses on encouraging Americans to get a more balanced diet by increasing the percentage of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products they consume.