The Benefits of Protein

Beef up your knowledge of protein and good dietary sources

By Neil Osterweil
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

Carbs bad, protein good.

Cased closed? Not exactly.

High protein, low carbohydrate diets are the hottest thing since sliced flank steak, and every food marketer in the known universe appears to want a piece of the protein pie.

Body builders are snatching, grabbing, and gulping down protein shakes. Dieters are gobbling down protein bars (and shunning pasta) in hopes of quick weight loss.

The Power of Protein

It's easy to understand the excitement. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. In fact, protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient," meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called "micronutrients." But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.

So you may assume the solution is to eat protein all day long. Not so fast, say nutritionists.

The truth is, we need less total protein that you might think. But we could all benefit from getting more protein from better food sources.