Protein is very important for your diet and also a very straight forward macronutrient. However, don’t be fooled. There is a complexity to it if you dig down deep enough. And once you understand it, you’ll know about the importance of protein to your health and use it to your advantage.
The Benefits of Protein for Your Health
Protein is a macronutrient your body needs alongside carbohydrates and fats to survive. Most people have the misconception that protein is only for building muscle and getting stronger.
Though protein does play an important role in those things, the body uses it for many important purposes and functions. Protein is responsible for the production and maintenance of healthy cells in your skin, nails, hair as well as bones, joints, muscles, and repair tissue.
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Protein is also responsible for maintaining a good immune system and overall strength for your body. The reason why it’s listed as a ‘macronutrient’ along with carbohydrates and fat, is because the body needs large amounts of it.
Carbohydrates and fats can be stored in the body, whereas protein cannot. This means the body constantly needs fresh supplies of it.
Recommended Protein Intake
The quantity of protein that is recommended for you will always depend on your health. As all people have different dietary requirements, you need to measure your recommended intake based on your health. A universal unit of measure for protein intake is as follows:
- 0.84g per kg for adult men
- 0.75g per kg for adult women
- Around 1g per kilograms for men and women above 70 or pregnant women
By not reaching your recommended intake of protein consumption (protein deficiency), the following symptoms and possible health complications may occur.
- Lack of energy
- Shrinkage of muscle tissue
- Oedema (build-up of fluids, particularly in the feet and ankles)
- Anaemia (the blood’s inability to deliver sufficient oxygen to the cells, usually caused by dietary deficiencies such as lack of iron)
- slower growth in younger children.
What are Amino Acids? Are They Important?
If you know enough about protein or are meticulously monitoring your diet consumption, you’ve probably come across amino acids. These acids play an important role in protein and protein digestion. Proteins are made up of chains of small building blocks known as amino acids. There are around 20 unique types of amino acids that are linked together to make up protein foods.
The two broad classes of amino acids in the human body are nonessential amino acids and essential amino acids. Nonessential amino acids are naturally produced in the body, whereas essential amino acids are the types we can only find in foods.
They are important in the production, conditioning, and maintenance of muscle and strength. Essential amino acids can also help aid common illnesses and colds. The body uses amino acids in three ways:
- Protein synthesis – this is the process where new proteins are constantly being created. For example. This means dead skin cells will shed away, to be replaced by new ones.
- Energy – Carbohydrates is what usually fuels our body with energy. However, so does protein, only in finer amounts. 10% of the energy in our bodies is obtained from protein.
- Precursors of other compounds – Amino acids create a wider range of other substances in the body. This includes hormones, as well as brain chemicals such as serotonin as well as adrenaline.
The Best Sources of Protein
- Red meat. Red meats are a great source of natural proteins. They are also high in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. However, try to watch your limit as red meat is also high in cholesterol and fat.
- Chicken. Chicken is one of the best sources of protein as it is very lean. Chicken has no carbohydrates and very little fat. Try sticking to breast pieces as opposed to thighs as the breast is the leanest.
- Fish. Fish is high in protein, contains plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats. Fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are great options as they have virtually no carbohydrate and only contain healthy omega3 fatty acids.
- Eggs. Egg whites are one of the purest forms of protein you can find. Egg yolk also contains many essential nutrients and minerals.
Other great sources of protein include:
- Milk and cheese
Keep in Mind
Yes, protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. However, moderation is important. This also means having a healthy balance of carbohydrates and fats. Too much of anything can’t be good for you and protein is no different.
Too much protein can lead to constipation, stomach aches, acid reflux, high cholesterol levels, and other health complications. If you are unsure on how to incorporate protein into your diet due to a personal health condition or circumstance, speak with a professional dietician or your medical practitioner.
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