Power of Protein
Protein has consistently been identified as one of the body’s most important building blocks. However, many people do not realize how important protein is for daily health. Every cell in the human body contains protein, and it is necessary for the formation of new cells and the repair of existing cells.
Understanding what protein is, how it works, and how to incorporate it into your diet can help you live a healthier, more energetic life.
What Is Protein?
Proteins consist of chains of amino acids. Large amounts of certain amino acids are required by the human body to function properly. In fact, twenty amino acids combined form more than 10,000 types of proteins that make up the body’s functions. Protein is broken down into these amino acid portions during the digestive process.
Protein plays an important role in nourishing your body, transporting oxygen throughout the body, and fighting infection and disease. It helps keep cells healthy and makes new cells. Protein is also needed for healthy development and growth in children, adolescents, and pregnant or lactating women.
Sources of Protein
Protein is usually associated with animal sources. They are known to be found in milk, eggs, meat and fish. However, there are many other sources of protein that are not from animal products.
Protein can be found in nuts, legumes, soybeans, and peanut oil. Some grains — such as quinoa and wheat germ — also contain protein. In addition, many fruits and vegetables are high in protein, including leafy greens, cherries, and avocados. Dietary supplements can be used as an additional source of protein.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Protein is necessary for your body to function properly. Lack of protein in your diet can lead to health problems such as loss of muscle mass. However, eating too much protein can cause your body to start storing the excess as fat.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture have compiled a set of dietary guidelines for Americans. They recommend that girls and women over the age of 14 consume about 46 grams of protein per day. Men aged 19 years and over should consume about 56 grams of protein per day. Everyone should get 10-35% of their daily calories from some type of protein.
Older people who are losing muscle mass or are overweight should talk to a dietitian about how much protein per day is healthy.
What Can Protein Do For You?
There are many benefits of protein. Protein is needed by tissues to grow and stay healthy. It can benefit every part of your body, from your nails to your muscles to your brain.
The following are some of the many benefits that protein has to offer:
- Maintain pH balance: Protein regulates acid and alkaline levels in your body fluids, including blood. Maintaining a constant pH level is necessary for your body to function properly, and an imbalance can lead to serious health problems.
- Boosts Immunity: Protein helps create antibodies known as immunoglobulins, which help fight infection.
- Transport of nutrients: Certain proteins transport nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to various parts of the body through the bloodstream. Other proteins store nutrients for the body to use later.
- Provides Structure: The proteins keratin, elastin and collagen provide strength and rigidity to cells. This protein can increase the strength of tendons, bones, ligaments, hair, skin, nails, and more.
- Supports biochemical reactions: Certain proteins, known as enzymes, cause basic biochemical reactions inside and outside cells. These enzymes help with digestion, blood clotting, energy production, muscle contraction, and more.
Other protein benefits include increased muscle mass, better sleep, improved brain function, lower blood pressure, and more.
It’s easy to see why protein is considered one of the main building blocks of the body. These amino acid chains perform important functions throughout the body, from head to toe. Consuming the recommended daily amount of protein is essential for your body to function optimally. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how much protein you should consume to meet your health and fitness goals.
For more information on protein, see the companion resource.
AUTHOR BIO: 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.