Last Updated August 7th, 2021
What is the importance of proteins?
Protein is a group of amino acids that are considered to be an important nutrient in our diet. It plays an important role in various functions in the body. It is responsible for transporting molecules as well as repairing damaged cells in the body. It is responsible for protecting the body from harmful pathogens.
Protein is made up of essential amino acids as well as non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are produced by the body, but essential amino acids need to be consumed through diet.
It is quite difficult to calculate the actual protein a person should consume during a day, but on an average, it is recommended that we consume around 0.8 grams of protein per each kilogram of the body weight. People who consume lower levels of protein in their diet may face several health problems such as liver and kidney disorders.
It is recommended that around 35 percent of daily calorie consumption should be fulfilled by protein intake. The required average protein intake varies from person to person depending on the sex, age, as well as how active the person is. Protein obtained from animal food is known to provide adequate essential amino acids, but it is a bit difficult to obtain adequate proteins from plant-based foods.
What are the different types of proteins
Complete proteins: Complete protein foods contain all the essential amino acids and mostly can be sourced from animal foods, such as meat, dairy products, and eggs.
Incomplete proteins: Incomplete proteins are low in one or more amino acids required to build cells. Plant foods namely peas, beans, and grains contain incomplete proteins.
Complementary proteins: Complementary proteins are a combination of two or more foods containing incomplete proteins (which together form a complete protein source). For example, rice with beans or bread with peanut butter is considered a combination of foods together, which provides complete protein.
The main functions of proteins in the body
Nerve Signal Transmission
Nerve fibers are a part of the nervous system, which transmits nerve signals. These nerve fibers are covered with insulation called a myelin sheath. This insulation is very similar to what one would find in an electrical wire. The myelin sheath is made of a specialized type of protein tissue that helps in retaining the nerve signals. The myelin sheath is formed and maintained with the help of proteins. If there is inadequate consumption of protein, it can result in deficiencies in this myelin sheath, which in turn may lead to the nerve signals lost and can lead to neurological deficits.
Alternative Energy Source
Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy for the body. In the absence of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are converted into ketones to provide energy to the body. A constant supply of energy is essential for the brain to function adequately and support the proper functioning of the body. Protein is utilized in the absence of carbohydrates, which is utilized for energy production.
Promotes Hair Health
Proteins are important in the formation of numerous structural components. Hair is a protein-based tissue. Hair contains a high concentration of a protein called collagen, which requires vitamin C and a particular type of amino acid that is utilized for synthesis. Deficiency of protein in the diet can result in thin, unhealthy hair, with hair loss and scalp disorders. Collagen protein is the main composition of numerous hair care products since collagen is known to help in the process of growing new hair as well as maintain the health of the hair.
Promotes Healthy Skin
Skin is known to contain two important proteins namely collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin play an important role in providing flexibility and elasticity to the skin and prevent sagging of the skin. The skin barrier is maintained healthy at all times by the use of a protein called collagen. When these proteins are synthesized in the adequate quantities they help in maintaining the adequate moisture level in the skin, promotes smoothness to the skin, as well as prevents wrinkles to the skin.
Joint pain and joint degradation are a few of the leading health issues faced by people. Joints are surrounded by cartilage. Cartilage is an important structural component of the body, which is a connective tissue and has the ability to flex and extend as required. Cartilage tissues primarily consist of collagen and provide an adequate structure. It acts as a cushion, so that bone edges do not rub against each other. Reduced amount of cartilage surrounding the joints can lead to accelerated joint degradation, which can lead to years of pain and suffering and hence it is important to consume a protein-rich diet to have a healthy joint.
Appetite Suppression and Weight Loss
Protein-rich foods are known for their thermic effect. The thermic effect is defined as a calculation of the number of calories required for the breakdown and absorption of food. Protein has the highest thermic effect among the macronutrient groups, which means eating 500 calories worth of protein foods equates to a net intake of only 350 calories. High protein intake diet can curb the appetite for longer periods. Various types of protein-based dairy products such as whey and casein provide higher suppression capabilities. They are considered to be the perfect snack for snacking in-between meals and make it excellent for supporting weight loss.
It is important to have a good night sleep for the body to function normally. Sleep is essential for the body to maintain the right metabolism. Protein seems to play an important part in regulating the sleep pattern. When we consume protein-rich foods, there is a positive effect in promoting a neurotransmitter balance. A damaged neurotransmitter is known to cause certain types of psychiatric issues called depression as well as hypermania. These types of problems are faced by people who undergo sleep deprivation and abnormal sleep pattern. Since protein is helpful in maintaining a balance in neurotransmitters, it is effective in promoting sleep.
Supports Immune System Function
The immune system, also known as the defense system of the body protects our body against several pathogens. The human gut consists of several probiotics that are useful bacteria. The living components, which are present in the form of good bacteria are generally protein-based components and are also known as antibodies. When a person consumes a protein-rich diet, there are a higher number of antibodies produced. This activates the immune system as well as improves the functioning of the immune system.
Supports Muscle Repair and Synthesis
Wear and tear of muscle are quite common when a person gets associated with activities such as physical exercise or hard labor. Since the muscle structure consists of proteins, it is essential to consume sufficient proteins through dietary intake. As already discussed, proteins help in the process of muscle repair and improve muscle mass. During the process of rigorous muscle training, muscle tissues undergo repeated flexing and contracting maneuvers. After the training process, it is important for the muscles to regain their strength and repair any torn muscles. This process can be accomplished only with the help of adequate protein intake through diet. Studies have indicated that the protein requirement increased during periods of illness, as well as regular and strenuous activity.
Protein deficiency: Risks and complications
Muscle weakness: Sarcopenia is a medical condition which involves loss of muscle mass. This phenomenon affects middle-aged men. Protein deficiency may further aggravate this process and lead to increased muscle loss.
Edema: One of the main functions of protein is to reduce fluid accumulation in the tissues. Due to protein deficiency, there are higher chances of fluid accumulation in the tissues leading to edema.
Low blood pressure and heart rate: Protein deficiency is known to cause changes in the structure of the blood. This structural change of the blood can lead to low blood pressure and low heart rate.
Liver problems: Protein is helpful in eliminating lipids as well as detoxification of the liver. A deficiency in protein may lead to impaired functioning of the liver.
Immunity: Immune cells contain proteins. Protein deficiency may lead to lower levels of immune cells and lead to impaired immunity.
Protein-rich foods can be obtained from various food sources namely animal-based food, plant-based food, and dairy-based food. Protein contents of non-vegetarian foods include the following:
- A 4-ounce strip steak has about 25 grams of protein.
- A 4-ounce serving of pork has about 24 grams of protein.
- A 3-ounce piece of lean chicken breast has about 25 grams of protein.
- An unprocessed turkey breast can provide around 16 grams of protein.
- One egg contains about 6 grams of protein.
- Halibut has around 16 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving
- A 3-ounce serving of unsalted tuna contains 16 grams of protein.
Protein contents of dairy foods include the following:
- Fresh mozzarella cheese provides around 7 grams of protein.
- One serving of Greek yogurt provides 17 grams of protein
- Half a cup-serving of ricotta cheese has 14 grams of protein.
Protein contents of vegetarian foods include the following:
- A single cup of cooked spinach contains 5 grams of protein.
- One cup serving of black beans has 15 grams protein.
- A 2.5-ounce serving of Seitan has 17 grams of protein.
- 8 grams of protein is obtained with 4 ounces of tofu.
- A cup of well-cooked peas provides around 8 grams of protein.
- A cup of edamame serving has 18 grams of protein.
- Half a cup serving of shelled pistachios have 6 grams of protein.
- 8 grams of protein is obtained with a handful of almonds.
- A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds provides 8 grams of protein.
The right amount of protein for you
Protein consumption is very essential for the body to function normally since it helps in numerous functions. On average, it is recommended that we consume around 0.8 grams of protein per each kilogram of body weight, as well as 35 percent of daily calorie consumption, should be fulfilled by protein intake.
It is important to avoid processed foods and consume healthy protein-rich foods. Proteins are one of the most useful nutrients and appropriate levels can be achieved just by consuming the right type of food. It is not necessary for a person to consider protein drinks, which is not a natural protein. It is always advised to choose a healthy and natural intake of proteins through foods rich in protein.
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