In this article we will talk about proteins, what they are and why they are important. What are Proteins? Protein comes from the Greek word proteos which means “primary”, “first place”. They are made up

In this article we will talk about proteins, what they are and why they are important.

What are Proteins?

Protein comes from the Greek word proteos which means “primary”, “first place”. They are made up of amino acids that join together to form long chains. There are 22 amino acids that help form 30,000 different proteins in our body, of which only 2% are studied. Of these 22 amino acids, 9 are essential. This means that these amino acids are not produced by the body, we can only get them from food. Proteins do most of their work in the body’s cell, where they perform various activities.

All cells produce proteins (except red ones), which are responsible for:

  1. physical structure;
  2. functions physiological:
    • muscle cells produce – actin and myosin proteins;
    • immune cells – antibodies;
    • skin cells – collagen and elastin;
    • bone marrow cells – hemoglobin;
    • pancreatic cells – enzymes (protease, lipase, amylase);
    • thyroid cells – thyroxine;
    • cells in the eye area (some) – keratin.

There is no organ or system that does not produce protein, or does not depend on protein. Protein is an essential element of the immune system, digestion, cellular respiration, bone and muscle structure. Thus the protein is the basis of all components and processes in the body. Creating protein means creating life, and it is equivalent to the health of the body

Why are proteins important?

Proteins are an important component of every cell in the body. Getting the right amount of protein in your diet is necessary for several reasons. Below I will list the important functions of the protein in the body:

  1. Growth and maintenance – proteins are needed for tissue growth and maintenance. The body’s protein needs depend on the individual;
  2. It acts as a messenger – Chains of amino acids of different lengths will form proteins and peptides, which make up some of the body’s hormones and transmitinformation between cells, organs and tissues in the body;
  3. Determines biochemical reactions – enzymes are those proteins that allow chemical reactions to take place inside the body (digestion, blood clotting, energy production, muscle contraction);
  4. Maintain a proper pH – proteins act as a buffer system, helping the body maintain appropriate values ​​of blood pH as well as other body fluids;
  5. Balances fluids – proteins in the blood maintain the balance of fluids between the blood and surrounding tissues;
  6. Provides structure – Fibrous proteins (keratin, collagen and elastin) provide different parts of the body structure, strength and elasticity;
  7. Provides energy – proteins are a valuable source of energy;
  8. Carries and stores nutrients – some specific proteins carry nutrients throughout the body, while other proteins store them:
    • glucose transporters (GLUT) conduct glucose into cells;
    • hemoglobin – carries oxygen;
    • ferritin – stores and stores iron;
    • lipoproteins – carry cholesterol or other fats in the blood;
  9. Supports the health of the immune system – proteins form antibodies that protect the body from diseases caused by bacteria and viruses.

Proteins also contribute to:

  • maintaining the health of the skeletal system.
  • building muscle mass, especially when practicing and resistance exercises. Muscle mass burns 3 times more calories a day than body fat – so every kilogram of muscle mass in the human body will burn about 14 kcal / day, while fat burns only 4.5 kcal / day. So maintaining or increasing muscle mass is essential to stimulate energy consumption throughout the day. When you exercise, the effort breaks down the muscle fibers, which are the structural components of the muscle tissue in your body. Protein therefore contributes to the increase of muscle mass.

The daily protein needs of any individual are a combination of many factors. Athletes need more protein in their diets than less physically active people, but the exact need depends on the volume of exercise, age, body composition, total energy consumption and training of the athlete. The minimum recommended daily intake for athletes is 1.4 to 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Where does proteins come from?

  1. Foods of animal origin: such as meat and dairy products, they contain all the essential amino acids. To reduce the fat intake of these foods opt for: fish, lean meat, egg whites, and low-fat dairy.
  2. Plant foods:
    • There are many plant-based proteins that you can rely on to get your daily intake, such as soy and legumes (beans and lentils). Proteins from plant sources can also provide you with many other nutrients. Including fiber, phytonutrients and a selection of vitamins and minerals.
    • However, in order to get a sufficient amount of protein from vegetable sources, you must have a diet as diverse as possible so that you can get the necessary amino acids from different sources, so that the necessary protein can be complete.
    • Try to consume half or more of protein, from vegetable sources, so that you can achieve your daily protein intake without eating large amounts of saturated fats.
    • Soy is an important source of protein and is also low in saturated fat.

How much protein do you need?

It depends on the needs of your body, depending on your age, gender and lifestyle.

  • If you exercise regularly, your body will need more protein to help increase and maintain muscle mass;
  • Women and men should consume protein up to 30% of their total daily caloric intake;
  • You need to eat enough protein throughout the day, making sure you divide this amount proportionally between all meals.

Whether you are a carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, vegetable proteins bring many benefits to your health. A World Health Organization (WHO) report associates processed meat with a higher risk of cancer. Numerous other studies have shown that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits – with fewer animal products such as cheese, dairy or meat – could reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

In the next article I will present the richest sources of vegetable protein.

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