Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What are proteins?
Proteins are large and complex molecules essential for the body to function. Proteins are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. It consists of amino acids. It is well known that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. The specific function and the 3-dimensional structure is determined by the sequence of amino acids. Proteins can be characterized into three different type namely complete proteins, incomplete proteins, and complementary proteins.
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, and eggs.
- Incomplete proteins: Incomplete proteins contain at least one essential amino acid and hence there is a lack of balance in the proteins. Plant foods namely the peas, beans, and grains mostly contain incomplete protein.
- Complementary proteins: Complementary proteins are a combination of two or more foods containing incomplete proteins. These foods are combined to make a supply of complete protein namely rice and beans or bread with peanut butter.
Why do you need to include protein in your diet?
Nerve Signal Transmission
Nerve fibers are part of the nervous system which transmits nerve signals and these nerve fibers require insulation as we find in an electrical wire. The insulation protecting these nerve fibers are called as the myelin sheath, which is a specialized type of protein tissue. Inadequate consumption of protein can result in deficiencies in the integrity of this barrier, which may lead to the nerve signals lost and can lead to neurological deficits.
Alternative Energy Source
Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy to the body. In the absence of carbohydrates proteins and fats are converted into ketone bodies to produce 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.
Promotes Hair Health
Proteins are important structural components. Hair is considered to be a protein-based tissue. Protein collagen is present in hair. Vitamin C and specific amino acids are required for the synthesis of the protein collagen. Deficiency of protein in the diet can result in thin, unhealthy hair, with hair loss and scalp disorders. Many hair treatment products contain collagen, as it is believed to promote hair growth and health.
Promotes Healthy Skin
Skin contains two important proteins called collagen and elastin. These components help to preserve the ability of skin to return to its normal state and avoid sagging. Collagen keeps the skin barrier intact. When proteins are synthesized at an optimal rate, it helps to maintain the moisture content within the skin and adds further years to its health.
Joint pain and joint degradation are the leading health issues faced by people. Maintaining a healthy joint seems to be difficult due to a hectic lifestyle. Joints are surrounded by a tissue called cartilage. Cartilage is a firm tissue but is softer and much more flexible than bone. Cartilage tissues primarily consist of collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein. Cartilage acts as a sort of cushion, so that bone ends 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. So it is important to consume a protein-rich diet to have a healthy joint.
Appetite Suppression and Weight Loss
Protein-rich diet has proved to suppress appetite and help in weight loss. Protein-rich foods are known for their thermic effect. Protein has the highest thermic effect of the macronutrient groups, which means eating 500 calories worth of protein foods equates to a net intake of around 350 calories. High protein intake diet can curb the appetite for a longer period. Various types of protein-based dairy products such as whey and casein provide higher suppression capabilities and make them the perfect snack for snacking in-between meals and make it excellent for supporting weight loss, as we end up with fewer calories.
Manage Blood Glucose and Control Diabetes
Diabetes is a medical condition when the body is not able to produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose in the blood and resulting in a high blood glucose level. Protein offers excellent support in managing blood glucose levels. Proteins help in the manufacture of the peptide hormone insulin and can promote the reduction of blood glucose and diabetes management. When carbohydrates are combined with foods rich in protein and fats, there is a reduction in the breakdown into glucose and its absorption into the bloodstream. Due to this process, insulin spikes are minimized, and the adverse effects of insulin are also reduced. A solid exercise regimen along with this high protein diet can reverse type 2 diabetes.
Prevent Osteoporosis and Bone Disease
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones deteriorate or become brittle and fragile due to low bone mass and bone tissue loss. Proteins stimulate the production of a growth factor known as IGF-1, which helps in a mineral deposition in the bone and making it more structurally dense. Consuming foods rich in anti-oxidants that are basic in nature namely the fruits and vegetables help in eliminating protein metabolites easily and maintain dense and strong bones.
Sleep is an important aspect of our daily life. It is important to have a good night sleep for the body to function normally. Protein-rich diets have been helpful in promoting improved sleep habits. This is possible due to the ability of a protein-rich diet help achieve neurotransmitter balance. Neurotransmitters are made of amino acid sequences. Depression and hyper mania are associated with disrupted neurotransmitter levels due to poor sleep habits.
Supports Immune System Function
The immune system protects organisms from infection with layered defenses of increasing specificity. The immune system is a complex system consisting of both living and non-living components. Living components are the good bacteria present in the gut, while antibodies are protein-based components. Deficiency of dietary protein could reduce the production of antibodies and in turn compromise the body’s defense against infection. Healthy and balanced protein consumption can help produce adequate antibodies to promote the body’s immune system.
Supports Muscle Repair and Synthesis
Proteins are the primary structural components of cells and perform different duties. The primary function of the protein consumed in the diet is to build and repair cells, including the muscle cells damaged when exercising. The body is constantly building new cells to replace old ones and amino acids which make up the proteins consumed in the diet support this process. During training, muscle tissue is broken down, and if not replaced, the body cannot compensate by rebuilding muscle tissue. A higher amount of protein intake is necessary during periods of illness, dietary restriction, or people who are older due to the greater tendency for muscle atrophy under these scenarios.
Find the top-rated protein foods for you here
Natural source of protein-rich foods is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Protein-rich foods can be obtained from various food sources namely beef, tuna, turkey, pork, salmon, nuts, seeds, and dairy.
Protein contents of non-vegetarian foods include the following:
- Beef: A 4-ounce strip steak has about 25 g of protein. Organic, grass-fed beef is a suitable one since it is naturally leaner and free of hormones.
- Pork: A 4-ounce serving of pork has about 24 g of protein and fewer calories than beef. The best quality of pork is lean, pork tenderloin.
- Chicken: A 3-ounce piece of lean chicken breast has about 25 g of protein and is considered to be a safer source of proteins since it is white meat and does not have harmful cholesterol.
- Turkey: Turkey is a versatile animal-based protein that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. An unprocessed turkey breast can provide around 16 g of protein in a 4-ounce ground turkey burger.
- Eggs: Eggs are inexpensive and are high in protein and high in nutrients, but low in calories. One large egg contains about 6 g of protein.
- Salmon: Fish like salmon is another great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving has about 17 g of protein.
- Halibut: Halibut fish are similar to salmon. It has just about the same amount of protein as salmon which is 16 g in a 3-ounce serving with fewer calories.
- Canned Tuna: An unsalted canned tuna can give 16 g of protein in a 3-ounce serving.
Protein contents of dairy foods include the following:
- Mozzarella cheese: A high-quality, fresh mozzarella cheese of 1-ounce serving has about 7 g of protein and only 1 g of carbs.
- Greek yogurt: Plain, low-fat Chobani or Greek yogurt contains 17 g of protein per serving. An addition of some nuts and fruit can provide added fat, fiber, and protein.
- Ricotta cheese: Ricotta cheese can be used in pasta, scrambled eggs, and can be served with fruit. A half cup-serving of ricotta cheese has 14 g of protein and 6 g of carbohydrates, which makes it an ideal low-carb, high protein food.
Protein contents of vegetarian foods include the following:
- Spinach: A single cup of cooked spinach contains 5 g of protein and accounts for only 41 calories.
- Black beans: Black beans are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. Black beans have 15 g protein per 1 cup serving.
- Seitan: Seitan is made from wheat and looks similar to meat when cooked. Seitan is a high-protein, low carb food and a 2.5-ounce serving has 4 g of carbs and about 17 g of protein.
- Tofu: Tofu is filled with nutrients and a 4-ounce serving contains around 8 g of complete protein and only 2 g of carbs.
- Peas: A cup of cooked peas provides around 8 g of protein. Peas are a great way to add protein and a healthy dose of carbohydrates to any meal.
- Edamame: A cup of edamame serving has 14 g of carbs and 18 g of protein and also accounts to a whole lot of fiber and iron.
- Pistachios: Half a cup serving of shelled pistachios have 6 g of protein. An unsalted or lightly salted version of pistachios provides high amounts of proteins.
- Almonds: A quarter cup of almonds contains about 8 g of carbs and 8 g of protein. Almonds combined with fruits can make an ideal snack for the pre and post workout.
- Pumpkin seeds: A handful of pumpkin seeds or quarter cup contains about 4 g of carbs and 8 g of protein.
Proteins: The one-stop nutrient for you
Proteins are essential for the body to function. Proteins are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. A varied and healthy diet will provide enough protein. Increasing protein intake does not necessarily mean eating more steak. There are other choices for adequate protein intake. Some of the suggestions to follow a high protein diet are by eating a variety of protein foods, choosing from fish, meat, soy, beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
Choose low-fat meat, poultry, and dairy products, and trim the fat from the meat. It is advisable to opt for smaller portions and to avoid processed meats. Use cooking methods such as grilling, which do not add extra fat. Monitor the ingredients in a protein bar, which may also contain high sugar. People can also try plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, and soy products. Choosing nutrient-rich foods that also provide fiber can be an added benefit.
The bottom line is that people tend to follow a high protein diet usually to lose weight, but it is always better to be monitored by a medical professional to obtain good results and have a healthy lifestyle.
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