Protein is made up of amino acids, which are building blocks that help build, repair and maintain body tissues. While our bodies can make some amino acids, there are others, called essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t make. Instead, we need to get essential amino acids from the food we eat (think dairy foods, eggs, poultry, fish, meat, seeds and nuts).
Not all proteins are equal. High-quality protein found in foods, such as dairy foods, eggs, lean beef and pork, poultry, fish and soy, contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. It’s key to get enough protein, because diets higher in protein have been shown to help preserve muscle with age, curb hunger and maintain a healthy weight.
If you tend to look at food labels, then you’ve likely seen “% Daily Value” on the packaging. This is a guide which tells you how the nutrients in one serving of the food contribute to your total daily diet. Daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet for healthy adults. The Daily Value for protein is based on high-quality proteins only. Here’s a quick tip to understand how much high-quality protein is in a food: 5 percent or less means that it is low in protein; 20 percent or more means that it’s high in protein.