Protein is essential. There's no argument about that. It's what keeps our bodies going. Here's how it works: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids we need, 11 of which the body can make on its own. But the remaining nine we have to get from the foods we eat. Our bodies need protein to repair and maintain body tissues, produce hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the cells, and to produce antibodies, enzymes and hormones.

There are two types of protein — complete and in-complete. Complete proteins contain the nine essential amino acids the body cannot make. They include meat, poultry, chicken, fish, eggs, soy protein concentrate and dairy products.

Incomplete proteins, foods such as dried beans, nuts, bread, corn and rice, are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. However, you can help balance your diet by simply combining these foods together throughout your day, ending up with complete proteins.