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Why is protein important in your diet?

Are you getting enough protein in your diet? While you may watch your calories, sugar and salt intake, you should also make sure you are ingesting enough protein. It plays a key role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in our bodies. It fuels our cells and powers our bodies.

Nancy Waldeck, chef and dietitian at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, points out that our bodies do not store protein.

“It is important for individuals to consume protein every day. Daily protein intake plays a role in keeping your cells in good shape and should be part of your daily health maintenance plan.”

Protein is made up of amino acids, commonly known as building blocks, because they are attached in long chains. It is also considered a “macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy.

Why your body needs protein

Here are five compelling reasons why you should make sure you are getting enough protein every day:

1. Build. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. In fact, your hair and nails are comprised mostly of protein.

2. Repair. Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.

3. Oxygenate. Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. This helps supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs.

4. Digest. About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food, and making new cells and body chemicals.

5. Regulate. Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.

How protein can help you stay in shape

Eating high-protein foods has many fitness benefits, including:

  • Speeding recovery after exercise and/or injury
  • Reducing muscle loss
  • Building lean muscle
  • Helping maintain a healthy weight
  • Curbing hunger

Waldeck points out another benefit of protein — it fills you up faster.

“Protein plus fiber keeps us full longer, which means you don’t feel the urge to eat as often. This helps keep weight down while fueling our cells with the right nutrients they need.”

Click here for more nutrition tips.  

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