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Carbohydrate, protein, and fat are the three major components of all food. Protein is made up of amino acids. Some amino acids are made in the body while others must come from foods.

Why is protein important?
Protein is an important nutrient in the body because it builds and repairs body tissues, makes enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals, protects the body from disease carrying bacteria and viruses, transports other nutrients, and facilitates muscle contractions.

How much protein should I consume each day?
The average person needs 2-3 servings (6-7 ounces) of protein each day. Athletes in endurance sports and weight lifters need 3-4 servings a day.

What foods are good sources of protein?
Meat is the most concentrated source of protein. Choose lean meats, poultry, and fish to reduce the amount of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in your diet. Try to limit red meat and eggs to twice a week. Low-fat dairy products such as skim milk, low-fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese are also good sources of protein.

Are meats and dairy products the only sources of protein?
All foods, except fruits, contain some protein. It is not necessary to consume meat to get all the protein your body needs. Beans, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, and tofu are all excellent plant sources of protein.

I exercise frequently. Should I take a protein or amino acid supplement?
Although protein is made of amino acids, taking amino acid supplements won't increase muscle size. Weight-bearing exercise is the only way to do this. Most people, even athletes, get enough protein from the foods they eat.

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