Fast facts about energy nutrients, part one

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By Tamalynn Kirby/School District 51 Nutritionist

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This is the first in a three-part series that will give you nutrient information on protein, carbohydrates and fat.

PROTEIN

Calories: 4 calories per Gram

Major Functions

  • Builds and maintains muscles, tissues and blood cells.
  • Is an essential part of enzymes and hormones that regulate body functions.
  • Enhances immune function.
  • Can be a source of energy,but is not the body’s preferred energy source.
  • Contributes to satiety, the feeling of fullness that signals the body to stop eating.

Types: Complete proteins are found in animal foods. Incomplete proteins are found in plant foods.

Did You Know?

  • Protein is made of amino acids. Essential amino acids are ones the body cannot make and must have in the diet. Protein from animal foods supplies all the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein.
  • Protein from plant sources lacks one or more of the essential amino acids and is considered incomplete protein. However, a mixed diet of plant and animal protein sources supplies all the amino acids needed for good health.
  • Food combinations such as beans and rice, macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and whole wheat bread are tasty ways to get all the amino acids in the diet.

Food Sources: Complete (Animal): Meats, fish, poultry, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.

Incomplete (Plant): Dried peas and beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Can the body store this nutrient?

The body uses protein to build tissues and muscles. Protein is not stored, but tissues and muscles can be broken down if protein is not supplied in the diet. Protein is needed regularly in the diet. Excess dietary protein is converted to fat for storage.

Tamalynn Kirby is a nutritionist for School District 51.

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