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Eggs

Every single tissue and part of the human body contains protein.

Protein — along with amino acids, which make up proteins — are considered the building blocks of life.

Every cell in your body, from your muscles and bones to your skin and hair, contains proteins.

Proteins are made up of amino acids attached to each other in long chains.

Up to 20 different types of amino acids can be combined to make a protein, and the sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s structure and function in your body.

Proteins do many important things in your body, including:

  • Provide a source of energy
  • Help repair cells and make new ones
  • Regulate your body’s tissues and organs
  • Promote proper growth and development in children, teenagers, and pregnant women

How Do We Get Protein?

You get protein from the foods you eat. When you eat protein-containing foods, the protein is broken down by your body into amino acids.

Animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are especially rich in protein.

Non-animal products can also provide adequate amounts of protein. Plant sources that may provide substantial amounts of protein include soy products, beans, nuts, and some grains (such as wheat germ and quinoa).

For most people, eating a well-balanced diet will provide enough protein without the need for protein supplements.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 8 grams of protein daily for every 20 pounds of body weight, and says that getting 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein is a healthy range for most people.

Most adults require two to three servings of protein-rich foods each day.

However, this recommendation may vary depending on your age and health and may be particularly different for children and teens.

The following are examples of a serving size of protein-rich foods:

  • 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 ounce of cheese

Good sources of protein include:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken without skin
  • Bison
  • Lean beef
  • Lean pork
  • Fish or shellfish
  • Beans (includes pinto, black, kidney, lentils, split peas, and garbanzo or chickpeas)
  • Nuts and seeds (includes almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanut butter, peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, and walnuts)
  • Soy protein products, such as tofu and tempeh
  • Low-fat dairy products

It’s important to consider the fat content of protein-rich foods when deciding what to eat. Ideally, you should aim for foods that are high in protein and low in saturated fat.

In fact, more and more research is showing that eating foods like fish, chicken, beans, and nuts in place of red meat can lower your risk of premature death and certain health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Can Too Much Protein Be Unhealthy?

When your body has too much protein, the following can occur:

  • Gastrointestinal complications, such as bloating
  • Liver complications
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased risk of gout (buildup of uric acid in the body, leading to joint inflammation)
  • Unhealthy drop in blood pressure
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Increased workload on kidneys

The amount of protein that you obtain through a well-balanced diet is usually safe.

Still, talk with your doctor if you plan to follow a diet that’s very high in protein or one that includes protein or amino acid supplements.

Protein and Food Allergies

When people have food allergies, it means that their immune system overreacts to at least one type of protein in the food. The following protein-containing foods are responsible for the majority of dietary allergic reactions:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Contact your doctor if you think you may have an allergy to any food.

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You can head off a lot of your most common beauty concerns simply by downing the right foods. That’s right—eating well not only does wonders for your waistline and bolsters your immune system but can also provide some very real get-gorg benefits, such as smoothing wrinkles, giving hair a glossy shine and strengthening flimsy nails.

“Your diet directly affects your day-to-day appearance and plays a significant role in how well you age,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner.

The smart approach, Zeichner said, is to create a plan that includes what he calls “the building blocks of healthy skin and hair”—nutrients, minerals and fatty acids—as well as antioxidants to protect your body from damaging environmental stresses.

Get ready to nab some beauty-boosting perks by tossing these essential face-saving edibles into your grocery cart.

Coffee
Grabbing some java every morning doesn’t just jump-start your day—that cup of joe has bioactive compounds that may help protect your skin from melanoma (the fifth most common cancer in the U.S.), according to a recent report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found that the more coffee people downed, the less likely they were to get the disease: Those drinking four cups daily had a 20 percent lower risk of developing malignant melanoma over a 10-year period than non-coffee drinkers.

Watermelon
The summertime fave is loaded with lycopene.

“This antioxidant compound gives watermelon and tomatoes their red color—and helps skin stave off UV damage,” said nutrition pro Keri Glassman, RD, founder of NutritiousLife.com.

Researchers believe that the melon contains as much as 40 percent more of the phytochemical than raw tomatoes; that’s the equivalent of an SPF 3, so use it to bolster (not replace) your daily dose of sunscreen.

Pomegranates
The seeds of this wonder fruit are bursting with antioxidants, like vitamin C, that prevent fine lines, wrinkles and dryness by neutralizing the free radicals that weather skin. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher vitamin C intake lessened the likelihood of dryness and wrinkles in middle-aged women. Also in the fruit’s arsenal: anthocyanins (which help increase collagen production, giving skin a firmer look) and ellagic acid (a natural chemical that reduces inflammation caused by UV damage).

Blueberries
Boost radiance by popping some of these plump little beauties. Blueberries supply vitamins C and E (two antioxidants that work in tandem to brighten skin, even out tone and fight off free-radical damage), as well as arubtin, “a natural derivative of the skin lightener hydroquinone,” Zeichner said.

Lobster
High in zinc, shellfish has anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat a range of skin annoyances, acne included.

“Zinc accelerates the renewal of skin cells,” said Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “That’s why you find the nutrient in many acne medications.”

In fact, research shows that people with acne have lower levels of zinc than people with clear skin.

Kale
On the long list of this leafy green’s nutrients are vitamin K (it promotes healthy blood clotting, so the blood vessels around the eyes don’t leak and cause Walking Dead-like shadows) and loads of iron.

“Insufficient levels of iron in your diet can cause your skin to look pale, making it easier to spot blood vessels under the skin,” explained Dr. Howard Murad, associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA. To max out the benefits, eat the veggie cooked, not raw.

Eggs
Your fingernails (toenails, too) are made of protein, so a deficiency can turn those talons soft. Keep yours thick and mani-pedi-ready by cracking smart: “Eggs are a good source of biotin, a B complex vitamin that metabolizes amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein,” said Dr. Frank Lipman, director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York City.

Walnuts
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in the natural oils that keep your hair hydrated) and vitamin E (which helps repair damaged follicles) are two secrets behind strong, lustrous strands—and these nuts are full of both, Lipman said. All you need is 1/4 cup a day. What’s more, walnuts are packed with copper, which will help keep your natural color rich: Studies show that being deficient in the mineral may be a factor in going prematurely gray.

Avocado
Like you need another reason to love them: These rich fruits are high in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that helps skin retain moisture in the outer layer to keep it soft, plump and supple, Bowe said.

Cantaloupe
The sweet melon contains beta carotene, or vitamin A, which is believed to regulate the growth of skin cells on your scalp and sebum in the skin’s outer layer, Zeichner said. This keeps pores from getting clogged and causing flakes.