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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 camera.gif.) You can use your hand camera.gif 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

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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