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NUTRITION CORNER: Protein-rich foods are a must for athletes

Proteins are very important to our health because they build, maintain, and replace the tissues in our body as well as regulate body processes and the formation of enzymes and hormones. They help in the formation of antibodies that enable our body to fight infection. Our muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein.

We need to consume proteins because they constantly break down  in the body. It is important that we have an adequate protein intake so we can maintain our health.

Health authorities say the best sources of protein are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, and legumes like black beans and lentils.

From the protein rich-foods that we eat, our body makes lots of specialized protein molecules that have specific jobs. For instance, our body uses protein to make hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen to every part of our body.

Other proteins are used to build cardiac or heart muscle.  Our body uses protein in moving our arms, moving our lungs, and protecting us from disease.

The digestive juices in our stomach and intestine break down the protein in the foods we eat and turn them into basic amino acids. These amino acids help build and maintain our muscles, bones, blood, and body organs.

There are many different amino acids that can be found in protein and 22 of them are very important to our health. Our body can only make 13 of them. The other nine amino acids which our body can not make are called essential amino acids because we can only obtain them by eating foods that are rich in protein.

Complete proteins are proteins that we get from meat and milk. They are called complete, because they contain all the 22 important proteins our body needs. Vegetable proteins on the other hand  are considered incomplete because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Vegetarians however need not worry since they get all the essential amino acids  that their body needs by eating protein-rich vegetable foods.#