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About Proteins


One of the most important and essential nutrients. Most of the time, our diet tend to be skewed heavily toward protein, especially in the form of meats. This also has the effect of increasing the quantity of dietary fats in our diets, resulting in an unbalanced diet that shortcuts carbohydrates, includes more than adequate quantities of protein, and has us consuming far more saturated fat than is necessary or beneficial.

Shifting toward leaner cuts of meat, and away from those with high levels of saturated fats (and cholesterol), and using more poultry, fish and foods such as dried beans and tofu are good ways to offer high-quality foods that provide good sources of protein without overdoing fats in the diet.

Essential Amino Acids

Proteins are composed of smaller groups known as amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, and our bodies are capable of creating over half of them. The remaining amino acids are referred to as the "essential" amino acids. This indicates that in order to produce proteins, we need to find a dietary source for that particular acid. According to age and other conditions there may be eight or nine essential amino acids.

Mutual Supplementation or Complementary Proteins

Animal foods, including meat, milk, cheese and eggs, will provide "complete" protein. This means that a single food can supply all the essential amino acids. Plant-based foods also supply a good source of protein, even though some foods may have low levels of particular amino acids.

This was once considered an issue of some concern for vegetarians. If they are eating a food low in tryptophan, for instant, they were cautioned to be sure to eat a food that was a good source of that amino acid at the same meal. It is no longer thought to be critical to get all of the essential amino acids combined in a single meal, as long as you do get them over the course of the day. Most well-balanced vegetarian meals rely on time-honored food combinations, such as rice and beans, that provide all of the essential amino acids.

Meeting Protein Requirements in a Typical Diet

Getting an adequate supply of protein in our diets is not a mysterious process. The recommended amounts of protein for most adults of average size ranges from 56 to 65 grams each day. In general, a single 6 ounce portion of meat, coupled with a few servings of low or nonfat dairy foods throughout the day will meet an individual's needs quite well.

What this means to the chef is that the "standard" portion of 6 to 8 ounces of meat, fish or chicken is really fine. The trick is in making it appear bountiful, attractive, and filling to patrons who are accustomed to thick center-cut chops, platter-size steaks, chicken halves, and whole pan-ready fish. Certainly you will not be in the position of dictating whether or not an individual can or ought to have more meat at another meal. But, even if this were the only meal that person ate all day, a larger portion offers no nutritional advantage.

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