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What Is Protein & Why Is It Important?

Most of us are familiar with the macronutrients of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Of the three, protein has a consistently good reputation. It’s reported to keep you full and build muscle, which makes it hard not to love. But what is protein exactly, and what does your body do with it? SheKnows health editor Dr. Elizabeth Yuko broke it down for us and shared a few interesting facts about protein.

First, let’s go over the chemistry: Proteins are compounds made up of amino acids, and there are at least 10,000 different types that serve distinct functions. For example, proteins make up essential parts of our bodies, like muscles, bones, organs, hair and skin, and they’re also important to vital bodily functions like carrying oxygen through the blood, regulating the immune system and repairing tissue. Plus, protein is brain food. The amino acids in it help with concentration, memory and alertness.

Protein can be found in animal foods like meat, poultry, fish and dairy, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians and vegans are out of luck. Seeds, beans, nuts, tofu and even peas are good sources, too. And you don’t need a lot of it. Most women only need about 50 to 60 grams of protein every day — the equivalent of about 4 ounces of chicken and 1 cup of cottage cheese.

Watch the video above to learn more about satiating and delicious protein.

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