The Importance of Protein, More Than a Food

Protein is an important substance found in every cell in the human body. In fact, except for water, protein is the most abundant substance in your body. This protein is manufactured by your body utilizing the dietary protein you consume. It is used in many vital processes and thus needs to be consistently replaced. You can accomplish this by regularly consuming foods that contain protein.

Please Note: It is important to discuss daily dietary intake amounts of Protein with your Primary Care Physician and Health care Provider before changing diets. For patients being treated for any diagnosis involving the Renal System and Kidney function,  it is extremely important to discuss your daily dietary intake of Protein.    Obtaining a referral for a Dietary Consult to discuss Dietary Needs with a Registered Dietitian may also be recommended/suggested during illnesses to maintain balanced nutrition.  Please contact your healthcare insurance provider to determine medical benefits with Registered Dietitian visits prior to scheduling a visit.  Thank You.

When an individual is ill it is normal for appetites to decrease and when being treated for a C.difficile infection not only can the appetite decrease but the ability to tolerate a number of food groups can also occur.  Maintaining protein intake is important.

Why?  Protein is termed the building block of the body. It is called this because protein is vital in the maintenance of body tissue, including development and repair. Hair, skin, eyes, muscles and organs are all made from protein. This is also why children need more protein per pound of body weight than adults; they are growing and developing new protein tissue *consult with Pediatricians to discuss protein dietary needs in all children’s diets.

Protein is a major source of energy. If you consume more protein than you need for body tissue maintenance and other necessary functions, your body will use it for energy.

Protein is  also involved in the creation of some hormones. These substances help control body functions that involve the interaction of several organs.  For example: Insulin, a small protein, and is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. It involves the interaction of organs such as the pancreas and the liver. Secretin, is another example of a protein hormone. This substance assists in the digestive process by stimulating the pancreas and the intestine to create necessary digestive juices.

Let’s not forget enzymes that are proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions in the body. In fact, most of the necessary chemical reactions in the body would not efficiently proceed without enzymes. For example, one type of enzyme functions as an aid in digesting large protein, carbohydrate and fat molecules into smaller molecules, while another assists the creation of DNA

Did you know that Protein is a major element in the transportation of certain molecules?  It is amazing that Protein has such a responsibility in our body maintenance.  Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body. Protein is also sometimes used to store certain molecules. Ferritin is an example of a protein that combines with iron for storage in the liver.

And Protein forms antibodies that help prevent infection, illness and disease. These proteins identify and assist in destroying antigens such as bacteria and viruses. They often work in conjunction with the other immune system cells. For example, these antibodies identify and then surround antigens in order to keep them contained until they can be destroyed by white blood cells.

Protein even has an important role in pH Balance — your bodily fluids (lbood, saliva, etc.)  function best at a neutral pH, or approximately 7.0. Many things that you encounter daily, such as foods, beverages and pollution, can change the pH of bodily fluids. A drastic and persistent change in pH can lead to chronic symptoms and various health problems.  The proteins in your body act as a buffers that help keep your pH neutral. When the pH of your blood becomes too acidic, the protein buffers in the blood will pick up hydrogen ions until the pH returns to neutral. If the pH becomes too high, or basic, protein buffers release hydrogen ions to lower the pH.

Protein is  in every single cell in your body – from your hair to your nails to your muscles and organs. These proteins are known as structural proteins; they quite literally provide the structure for your body. Without them, you could not walk, run or even stand. In fact, the most abundant protein in your body is collagen, which is present in skin, ligaments, tendons and bones.

Which foods contain Protein?

Protein food sources, such as animal products, contain all of the essential amino acids. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy are all considered complete proteins. If you consume two to three servings of these foods a day, you will meet your daily protein needs. Quinoa, a plant-based seed that is often called a grain, is also a complete protein and a healthy option if you do not want to eat animal foods. Soy products, like tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy milk, are other plant-based complete protein options.

What if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet?

A vegetarian, you can consume complete protein foods by eating dairy products and eggs in addition to plant-based proteins. If you are a vegan, you can still get all the essential amino acids your body needs with careful meal planning. Just make sure you are eating a wide variety of plant-based incomplete protein foods. Healthy plant-based high-protein options include 1/4 cup of nuts like almonds, 1 to 2 cups of beans or lentils and 1/2 cup of quinoa.

What about Protein Powders?

There are a variety of protein powders on the market that come from  BOTH incomplete protein sources –  proteins from plant-based foods are typically considered incomplete proteins because they only contain some of the essential amino acids – and  complete protein sources – animal products, contain all of the essential amino acids. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy .

If you want a complete protein source powder  a good option is whey protein, which comes from dairy. A plant-based complete protein powder option is soy protein. Other plant-based protein powders include brown rice protein and pea protein. In order to get a plant-based complete protein with all of the essential amino acids, look for a powder that combines these two protein sources.


Protein Packed Chocolate Pudding


        1 Box 4 Serving Size – Instant Pudding (Chocolate Flavor or Vanilla Can Be Substituted).
      2 cups 2% Milk or 2 cups Soy Milk or Milk of your choice.

1 scoop whey protein (Whey Protein Powder Works Best For This Recipe).


Mix all three ingredients together following Box Pudding Directions. Divide Pudding into serving cups and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Nutrition Information  Per Box of Instant Pudding Mix:
  • Servings Per Recipe: 4
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 112.0, Total Fat: 1.6 g,
  • Cholesterol: 6.1 mg
  • Sodium: 215.4 mg
  • Total Carbs: 10.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 10.4 g