Why do children need protein?

Jodie Shield
Jodie Shield on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Healthcare Specialist
Growing kids need protein to help them build and repair cells, enzymes, and hormones, and, as a last resort, to provide energy. In addition to protein, foods in the protein foods group supply varying amounts of zinc, magnesium, B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, vitamins B-6 and B-12), and vitamin E. Many also provide iron. The type in meat, poultry, and fish (heme iron) is better absorbed than the iron in eggs, dried beans, and peas (nonheme iron). And while we are on the topic of health, this food group offers the max in terms of a vitamin-mineral package. For example, B vitamins act like sparkplugs to help the body use and produce energy. Protein foods also help form new blood cells and body tissues, and they help the nervous system function properly. Their iron helps carry oxygen in the blood and prevents anemia; their magnesium aids in bone building and energy release in muscles; and their zinc helps the immune system function.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.