Proteins; the building blocks of life
We’ve read it everywhere; proteins are important for the body. But have you ever wondered why? Proteins are often called as the building blocks of life, and rightfully so, as they are the foundation for the completion of numerous activities and functions in our bodies. Proteins make up almost every cell in the body. Not just cells, but proteins are also what make up enzymes. Enzymes are biocatalysts that speed up various biological reactions taking place inside the body. Without the presence and functioning of enzymes, millions of processes going on inside the body will not reach completion and our bodies will not be able to survive. Enzymes are protein in nature, and so are the substrates on which the enzymes bind.
Not just enzymes, but receptors are also protein in nature. So are tissues, organs, muscles, hormones, antibodies etc. All in all, it might not be an exaggeration to say that our entire body is one big compilation of proteins.
So what exactly are proteins? Proteins are basically macromolecules that are composed of smaller subunits called “amino acids”. They could be regarded as the foundation for all life. Amino acids themselves are of three types;
- Essential amino acids: those that the body cannot synthesize and must be obtained from an outside source, such as food.
- Non-essential amino acids: those amino acids that the body can synthesize on its own
- Conditionally essential amino acids: those amino acids that the body can sometimes not make enough of, and must be hence obtained from an outside source.
So now that the fact that proteins compose almost all of the human body has been established, the question often arises; how much protein do we actually need to have a healthy, functioning body?
The answer isn’t as simple as ABC, as protein requirements vary considerably depending on age, gender, and individual physiological needs. On an average, the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of proteins is 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. That accounts for almost 10 percent of the total calories required by the body. But a study conducted by the “Protein Summit” in Washington D.C says that an average American is consuming around 16 percent of their daily calories requirement in the form of protein; which is, by no means, excessive. In fact, Americans might be consuming less protein than that which is required. They argue that consumption of even twice the amount of protein as that, which the RDA says, is safe and a good range to aim for. That being said, various factors can contribute to the changes in daily protein requirements.
A lot of us are probably under the delusion that we’re consuming ample amount of protein to meet our daily demands, but that might not be true at all. Certain symptoms to look out for that depict protein deficiency include:
- Slow metabolism
- Feeling fatigued very often
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Weakened bones
- Less muscle mass
- Predisposition to diabetes
- Lack of concentration
- Slow healing process
Although these symptoms could be indicative towards something that doesn’t necessarily involve protein deficiency, we can well decipher the importance of protein in our body and how significant it is to maintain healthy protein levels.
Fortunately, nature has blessed us with countless wonders that are rich in protein and can help you get your protein levels in check. Some natural products high in protein contents are;
Seafood is the best source of protein that also keeps your calories in check, as they are low in fat content. Salmon, more specifically, is a very healthy option. Although it is rich in fat, it has the “good fat”; the omega-3 fatty acids that keep the heart healthy. Not only is fish nutritious, but they can be prepared in numerous delicious ways and their versatility adds to their advantages.
Eggs are the star of breakfast in many homes. And rightfully so, as not only do they taste delicious, they also maintain the protein function in the body. They are rich in proteins such as albumin (specially the yolk, so don’t throw it out!). And since many people like their eggs in the morning, they make up a good proteinaceous meal to kick start the day.
- Dairy products:
Milk, yogurt, cheese etc are not just healthy sources of calcium and other nutrients, but also help you meet your daily protein requirements. Greek yogurt is specifically high in protein contents, and thus, can be a healthy choice. Opt for low-fat dairy products to ensure minimal amounts of fat consumption.
- White meat:
White meat is a healthier alternative to red meat, as it has lesser amounts of unhealthy fat. But make sure to remove the skin before incorporating white meat in your diets, as the skin is jam-packed with unsaturated fats that are harmful to the body.
Proteins and fibers; they are a killer combination when it comes to healthy foods. Their rich fiber contents help you feel fuller for longer periods of time, and thus, will stop you from overindulging. Furthermore, they are rich in protein and also help meet your daily calories requirement without you gaining unnecessary weight. Taste and health, you’re getting the best of both worlds here!
Who doesn’t like munching on nuts every time we see them around? These nutrient-packed gifts of nature aren’t just delicious, but also rich in protein. Almonds in particular are loaded with proteins, meeting 13 percent of your calories needs in the process. Other nuts include walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanuts etc.
Oats make a delicious breakfast, and are rich in various nutrients. Amongst others such as magnesium, manganese
As much as you’d like to run away from this particular veggie, there is a reason why your mom makes you gulp them down your throat. This gift of nature is loaded with nutrients to nourish your body. It is rich in fibers, potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and proteins. It is also rich in certain bioactive nutrients that are known to protect against cancers. It offers high amounts of protein for very less calories. One cup of chopped broccoli has approximately 3 grams of protein and only 31 calories. That is a deal to seal for sure!
- Ezekiel bread:
This weird sounding bread is different than most normal breads. It is composed of legumes and organic, sprouted whole grains including barley, spelt, soybeans, lentils, millet, and wheat. Ezkeil bread is very rich in protein, fiber and many other nutrients as opposed to other breads. One slice of this bread contains around 4 grams of protein.
- Brussels sprouts:
Another vegetable closely related to broccoli that is rich in protein content is Brussels sprouts. Not just protein, but it also contains high amounts of fiber, Vitamins, and other such healthy nutrients. 78 grams of Brussels sprouts contain approximately 2 grams of protein.
Lentils are the best sources of proteins obtained from plants. It is rich in fibers, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, folate, iron, and numerous other nutrients that are truly advantageous to the body.
All in all, there are numerous sources of protein made available to us by nature. Instead of resorting to cheap protein supplements, you should look forward to incorporating these gifts of nature in your diet. A protein diet can aid you in living a healthy life, as our entire body is a foundation laid by proteins and amino acids. It makes up our cells, DNA, muscles and the likes. Protein for the win!