Protein has continually been named one of the body’s most important building blocks. However, many people are unaware of just how essential protein is for everyday health.
Every cell in the human body contains protein, and it is necessary for the creation of new cells and repairing existing ones.
Understanding what proteins are, how they function, and how to incorporate them into your diet can help you live a healthier, more energized life.
What Is a Protein?
A protein is made of a chain of amino acids. Large amounts of certain amino acids are necessary for the human body to function properly.
In fact, twenty amino acids are combined to create the more than 10,000 types of proteins that make the body work. Proteins are broken down into these amino acid parts during the digestion process.
Protein plays many essential roles in fueling your body, carrying oxygen throughout the body, and fighting infections and illness. It helps maintain healthy cells and creates new cells.
Protein is also needed for healthy development and growth in kids, teens, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Sources of Protein
Proteins are commonly associated with animal sources. They’re known to be found in milk, eggs, meats and fish. However, there are many other sources of protein that are not acquired from animal products.
Proteins can be found in legumes, beans, soy and nut butters. Some grains — such as quinoa and wheat germ — also contain proteins.
Additionally, numerous fruits and vegetables are rich in protein, including leafy greens, cherries and avocados. Supplements may be used as additional sources of protein.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Protein is required for your body to function properly. An insufficient amount of protein in your diet could lead to health problems, such as muscle loss. However, consuming too much protein may cause your body to begin storing the excess in the form of fat.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have put together a series of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They recommend that girls and women over 14 years of age intake about 46 grams of protein per day.
Men ages 19 and up should intake roughly 56 grams of protein per day. Everyone should receive 10-35% of their daily calories from some kind of protein.
Older people who are losing muscle mass or individuals who are overweight should speak to a dietician about how much protein is healthy to consume each day.
What Protein Can Do for You
The benefits of protein are numerous. Protein is required for tissues to grow and remain healthy. It can benefit every part of your body, from your fingernails to your muscles and even your brain.
The following are several of the many benefits that proteins provide:
- Maintaining pH balance: Protein regulates the acid and base concentrations in your bodily fluids, including blood. Maintaining a consistent pH level is necessary for your body to function properly, and an imbalance could lead to serious health problems.
- Improving immunity: Protein aids in the formation of antibodies, known as immunoglobins, which help fight infection.
- Transporting nutrients: Some proteins carry nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, throughout the bloodstream to different parts of the body. Other proteins store nutrients, so the body can use them later.
- Providing structure: The proteins keratin, elastin and collagen provide rigidity and stiffness to cells. These proteins can improve the strength of your tendons, bones, ligaments, hair, skin, nails, and more.
- Aiding in biochemical reactions: Certain proteins known as enzymes cause essential biochemical reactions inside and outside of the cells. These enzymes aid in digestion, blood clotting, energy production, muscle contraction, and more.
Other benefits of protein include improved muscle mass, better sleep, improved brain function, decreased blood pressure, and more.
It’s easy to see why protein is considered one of the body’s major building blocks. These chains of amino acids perform important roles throughout the body, from head to toe. Consuming the daily recommended amount of protein is essential for your body to function optimally.
Speak with your doctor to learn more about how much protein you should consume to reach your health and fitness goals.
For more information on protein, check out the accompanying resource:
Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight-loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.