Why Does Our Body Need Protein?
Why does the human body need protein? Have you ever wondered that?
If you are someone who likes to stay fit, then there is no doubt that you have heard of these food elements called proteins. You may have even heard of them in your school years, when you were studying about the ‘building blocks’ of foods.
So what are proteins and why do we need them?
Proteins are basic components of different parts of the body – the skin, the muscles, hair, nails etc. Enzymes in the body that are responsible for a variety of different biological reactions are also proteins. Basically, proteins are literally a part of every structure in the human body.
Proteins form an essential part of our diet. They are required to keep us healthy and strong. Without protein, our bodies can become weak due to the weakening of tissues and muscles. Our nerve fibers will stop sending messages from the brain to the tissues. Our bones will become weaker. Without protein, our bodies can shut down.
As humans, we require a total of 0.8 gm of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 60kg, then you need to consume 48 gm of protein a day. Medical bodies recommend that our diet contain at least 35% protein in it.
The lack of protein in the diet, especially in those of children, can lead to a condition called kwashiorkar. Kwashiorkar is a protein deficiency disorder that leads to a variety of different problems such as malnourishment and weakness of the heart and muscles. It is a serious condition that needs urgent medical attention.
Amino acids – What are They?
Let us say that you are building a house. You will find that hundreds of bricks are laid together in an orderly fashion, held together by cement.
In the case of proteins, the protein molecule is composed of building blocks called amino acids, that are held together by bonds. There are different kinds of amino acids, and some are essential to build healthy muscles and tissues. These are called essential amino acids.
There are 3 different kinds of amino acids that form protein.
1. Essential amino acids – These are amino acids that cannot be made by the body. They must be obtained from the diet. Regular consumption of wholesome protein foods can help you get all the essential amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids that the body needs – histidine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, leucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
2. Non-essential amino acids – These are amino acids that are generated by the body through breakdown of ingested protein.
3. Conditional amino acids – These are required during time of illness and stress.
Types of Protein
In a broad sense, protein can be classified in a number of different ways. However, the most common way that proteins are classified is animal protein and vegetarian protein.
Animal protein is derived from animal sources such as chicken, fish, lamb etc. Egg is an excellent source of protein. Animal protein is the more ‘wholesome and complete’ kind, as it contains all the building blocks (essential amino acids) necessary to keep tissues healthy.
Vegetable protein is the less wholesome protein, and can be sourced from nuts and seeds, certain vegetables and fruits. That being said, soy protein is an excellent protein source, believed to be equivalent to animal protein in its availability.
Proteins from different sources are usually accompanied by other food components. For example, red meat contains a large amount of saturated fats. This makes it a great protein source, but a bad one when it comes to fat content.
When choosing your protein source in your diet, do so carefully. While the protein itself may be great for your health, it may have some harmful effects when it comes to its accompaniments. Protein supplements are useful if you don’t get enough protein in your diet.
Ideal Protein Supplements
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