The last food group is the protein group. This group is another large group that red meats, poultry products, eggs, legumes (beans, lentils), and other protein sources like nuts, seeds, and tofu and other soy based products. Now, on to some commonly asked questions.
What is a protein?
A protein is a food that is made up of amino acids (AA). There are 20 different AA and 9 of these are called essential AA. This means that the human body cannot make these and therefore we have to receive them from our diet. Proteins that have all the AA that our body needs are called complete proteins. Animal protein sources are complete proteins, while vegetarian sources are generally incomplete proteins.
Are there any vegetarian protein sources?
Yes, definitely. There are many vegetarian options! These include eggs, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, seeds, and tofu and other soy based products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt from the dairy group and whole grains from the grain group are not technically a part of the protein group but are also sources of protein. As mentioned above vegetarian protein sources are incomplete proteins and that just means that a vegetarian may have to eat two different proteins at one meal to ensure they receive all the essential AA.
Do I need to worry about getting enough protein?
The average American eating pattern meets and exceeds the Dietary Guidelines 2015 recommendations so chances are you don’t have to worry.
If you still have questions or want to learn more about proteins, make sure you visit the ChooseMyPlate.gov proteins page. And as always, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.