I thought this would be helpful topic, as some readers have requested basic information on the three macronutrients in our diet: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. So, I want to give you the low down on these important nutrients – and their functions in our body.


Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are basically three groups of amino acids: essential, nonessential, and conditional. Essential Amino Acids are the amino acids your body cannot make, or cannot make in sufficient amounts. These amino acids must be supplied by the diet – they are essential. Nonessential Amino Acids are the amino acids the body can make for itself, therefore they are nonessential in the diet. Conditional Amino Acids are amino acids that are not essential unless the body is under duress.

We need amino acids. They are the building blocks to proteins, and we need proteins to live, grow, and survive.


Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine


Alanine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Glutamic Acid


Arginine, Cysteine, Glutamine, Glycine, Ornithine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine


  1. Building material for growth and maintenance of tissues and muscles
  2. Involved in enzymatic reactions
  3. Involved in digestive health
  4. A source for energy and glucose
  5. Involved in immune regulation through the production of antibodies
  6. Involved in hormone production

WOW! That is a lot of information…


Proteins’ digestibility depends on the source of the protein, as well as what other foods are eaten with it. Sorry vegans, but animal proteins are 90-99% digestible, while plant proteins are about 70-90% digestible. The animal proteins are more bioavailable than any plant proteins. Bioavailability refers to how completely a protein is absorbed by the body.

A high quality or complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids in relatively the same amounts that our bodies require, but may or may not contain all the nonessential amino acids. Sorry again, vegans, but animal sources of protein provide higher quality proteins. Proteins from plants tend to be limited in one or more essential amino acids.

Complete Proteins: meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish, soy, quinoa, hemp, chia seeds, amaranth, buckwheat, pistachios, and spirulina.

If you are vegan, you can get complete proteins through food combining. Vegans can incorporate complementary proteins into their diet by eating a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and veggies. This will help them get all their essential and nonessential amino acids. For example, oatmeal topped with nuts, ezekiel bread topped with nut butter, hummus, rice and beans, rice and lentils, and/or oatmeal for breakfast and beans for lunch. You do not need to get your complete proteins at one meal, just in the same day. 


So, once we eat proteins, what does our body do with them?

  1. Digestion of the proteins starts in the stomach with hydrochloric acid (HCL), which helps break down (or denature) the complex structure of the protein.
  2. Partially digested proteins leave the stomach and enter the small intestine, where they are further broken down to smaller components, namely amino acids to be absorbed and transported to the blood and the tissues.
  3. The liver processes the amino acids before they are sent out to the body tissues.
  4. The amino acids will be broken down to further create urea or ammonia, excreted by the kidneys, and will also be used to create glucose and fatty acids. We cannot store excess protein, so the body needs to convert it to glucose and fatty acids for later use – or excrete it.


There are different stages in our lives when we require more or less protein – like when pregnant, under stress, ill, training for a competition (protein builds muscle), or even seasonally throughout the year. However, the average protein intake for many Americans is 15-20% of daily calories. For a person who requires a 2,000 calorie per day diet, that’s about 75 grams of protein. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of weight per day.

Protein is one of the most satiating macronutrients, which can be helpful in curbing your appetite and those nasty sugar cravings. It is helpful to consume proteins if you are trying to lose weight, trying to maintain blood sugar, fighting metabolic issues, trying to manage symptoms from adrenal fatigue, or if you are under a tremendous amount of stress (and who ISN’T under a high level of stress?).