WHAT IS PROTEIN?
Protein is one of three macronutrients that human body needs in fairly large amounts to survive. Carbohydrates and fats are the other two. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are proteins in every cell, tissue and organ of the human body.
WHY EAT PROTEIN?
The CDC recommends that adult men eat about 56 grams of protein each day and adult women should aim for about 46 grams daily. Protein is so important because it provides energy and helps fuel and build muscles. Protein is made up of 22 amino acids, chemical compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. Your body can produce most of these amino acids but there are eight of them that are essential to get from your diet.
1) ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS:- There are eight essential amino acids. They are labeled ‘essential’ because your body cannot produce them and therefore must source them from food. Even though they have this label they are no more important for the proper functioning of your body than non-essential amino acids. The only difference is that since your body cannot manufacture them it is essential that they are part of your diet. The eight essential amino acids are listed below:
– Isoleucine., Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine.
2) NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS:- There are 14 none essential amino acids. They are labelled ‘non-essential’ because your body can produce them and therefore does not have to rely on food as a source. However, they are still required by the body so that it can function properly and are just as important as the essential amino acids. The 14 non-essential amino acids are listed below:
– Alanine, Apartic Acid, Asparagine, Cysteine, Cystine, Glutamine, Glutathione, Glycine, Histidine, L-Arginine, Proline, Serine, Taurine, Threonine.
COMPLETE VS INCOMPLETE PROTEINS
1) COMPLETE PROTEINS:- Complete proteins are proteins that contain all of the eight essential amino acids. Animal products (meat, fish, dairy) are the richest source of complete proteins with all animal proteins considered complete. However, many vegetable products are also complete proteins with bananas, almonds, Brazil nuts, carrots and broccoli being just a few of the complete vegetable proteins available.
2) INCOMPLETE PROTEINS:- Incomplete proteins are proteins that do not contain all of the eight essential amino acids. Examples of incomplete proteins include beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Many vegetable products are considered incomplete proteins. However, two or more incomplete proteins can be combined to make a complete protein. For example, grains can be combined with nuts or seeds to create a complete protein.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE PROTEINS?
When you consume protein it is broken down into single amino acids in the stomach and the small intestine. These amino acids are then released into the bloodstream and transported to where they are needed. The cells in your body constantly use these amino acids to create new proteins. If you do not consume sufficient levels of one or more of the eight essential amino acids your body cannot create new proteins effectively. Your body also constantly breaks down old proteins and releases the amino acids back into the bloodstream where they can be recycled or used for energy.
Protein’s main function is to produce, maintain and repair your body’s cells hence the reason it is often referred to as your body’s building blocks. The bulk of your muscles, tissues and organs are made from protein. As discussed above your body’s cells are constantly utilizing the amino acids in your bloodstream and creating new proteins which can then be used to build, maintain or repair.
The other functions of protein include:
– Helping your body perform various functions including muscle contraction and nutrient transport.
– Helping your body produce important chemicals such as antibodies, enzymes and hormones.
– Helping keep your hair, nails and skin healthy.
As you can see protein plays a vital role in the maintenance of your body’s cells. Without protein your cells would break down and your body would be unable to produce new cells or repair your existing ones. Therefore, it is vital that you consume adequate levels of protein and more importantly make sure that the protein you consume is not consistently lacking one or more of the eight essential amino acids.