Health Benefits of Protein

Health Benefits of Protein

Meats, Beans & NutsMeat, poultry, fish, beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds supply many nutrients and are an important part of healthy eating. Included in the USDA MyPlate's Protein group, these healthy foods include not only proteins, but B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, B6 and B12), vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and iron. Salmon or tunaalmonds and walnuts provide some wonderful health benefits beyond these basic nutrients.

The healthy proteins in meat, beans and nuts function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes and hormones.

B vitamins found in this food group serve a variety of functions in the body. They help the body release energy and build tissue.

Vitamin B12 is needed for healthy blood. It is found only in animal products. If you are a vegetarian and do not eat any animal foods like eggs, milk or cheese, you may need to take a supplement for this vitamin or look for fortified vegetarian products.

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Beans are an excellent source of fiber.

Two to seven ounces of protein per day are recommended, depending on how many calories you need. To find out how much protein you need, use the Healthy Eating Planner.

Cooking with Protein

Dried beans and peas are inexpensive sources of protein. Meat and poultry are nutritious and economical sources of protein and other important nutrients. Many lean meats like beef chuck are lower in fat and also lower in cost. Search our database of healthy recipes for ideas and new twists.


1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Why is it Important to Make Lean or Low-Fat Choices From the Protein Foods Group? Accessed March 8, 2015. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Why is it Important to Eat Vegetables? Accessed March 8, 2014.