The Mighty Protein: High protein foods are one of the key elements for the body’s healthy growth and development. In fact, the name protein is derived from the Greek word ‘proteos’ meaning ‘primary’ or ‘of first place’. Like other macronutrients- carbohydrate and fats, protein is needed by the body in large portions. The building blocks of protein are smaller, complex units of amino acids which polymerize and form a larger unit of the protein molecule. These amino acids are disintegrated and released into the body upon digestion and assimilation. It is, subsequently used by every body cell for various important and vital functions.
Important Functions of Protein
Growth and Maintenance
Being an important functional element, protein plays a pivotal role in the body’s efficient growth and maintenance. Since the body cannot produce all the essential amino acids, daily and sufficient supply of high protein foods becomes necessary. According to a study published in the Experimental Physiology it suggested that the association between amino acids availability and muscle growth is curvilinear that increases with respect to each other up to one point.
Every day, our body undergoes the state of turnover with an equilibrium between tissue weathering and tissue repair. Here, amino acids play an important role in its building-up. Protein requirement varies with increasing age or change in the physiological condition.
For example, from infant to childhood, protein is very crucial for healthy growth and development. Similarly, during fever or any infection when body tissue sheds at a faster rate, protein is recommended for better recovery. Also, in special physiological conditions like pregnancy and lactation, the need for protein increases to meet the mother’s daily requirement as well as assists efficient growth of the fetus.
Transport and Storage
Protein is needed by the body for many vital functions including storage and transport of many metabolic products. Transport protein is one that transfers various compounds like vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, hormones, oxygen and metabolites between blood and tissues. For example, haemoglobin is a transport protein that carries oxygen via blood from the lungs to various tissues. Similarly, GLUT protein is responsible for the transportation of glucose across the cell. Another carrier protein Cytochrome helps in the transportation of electrons which subsequently aids in energy production. Protein also function as a storage protein as it can store electrolyte ions and amino acids for future use. For example, Ferritin is a storage protein that stores iron inside the cell. Another iron-storing protein is heme which is present in haemoglobin and cytochrome.
Vital Biological Mechanisms
Many biological reactions in the body are incomplete without the involvement of protein. The latter, in the form of enzymes and hormones, act as a regulatory factor for many metabolic reactions.
Enzymes are the catalytic proteins which are highly specific in nature. Means, every enzyme is specific for regulating specific reaction involving a specific substrate.
Some important biological functions where protein as enzymes play a catalytic role:
- Digestion of Nutrients- Digestive enzymes are present throughout the GI tract for breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Example- Amylase, pepsin, lipase, etc.
- DNA replication- for the copying of DNA in the exact same pattern every time along with the cell division. For example, DNA polymerase, DNA ligase, etc.
- Energy generation- various enzymes and enzyme system are involved that helps in energy production. For example, the cytochrome system, hexokinase, etc.
The high protein foods also contribute to important hormonal regulations in the body. The amino acids released in the body act as a communication medium between various body tissues and thus, convey regulatory messages efficiently.
Few examples are:-
- Stress management – these hormones regulate body reactions dealing with the stressful situation or an emergency. For example- cortisol, adrenaline, serotonin
- Blood sugar regulation – Regulate the glucose level with the help of hormones like insulin, glucagon.
- Regulate basal metabolic reactions with hormones like thyroid, parathyroid and hypothalamus.
Strengthen Immune System
Proteins are the building blocks of the immune cells- antibodies or immunoglobulin’s. These antibodies protect the body from various foreign invaders like bacteria, virus and other infection-causing pathogens. These antibodies tag along with the foreign invaders or the antigens and inhibit them from spreading and flourishing.
High Protein Diet Foods: According to a study, it was seen that severe malnourishment induced by a low-protein diet resulted in the reduction in leukocyte level, increased the parasitic burden and lowered lymphocyte proliferation. Also, these antibodies keep the memory of their confronts with that specific antigen. This helps in quick action the next time when the same antigen attacks the body system. Thus, for this very reason, high protein foods are very important for keeping the immunity intact and body disease-free.
Maintain Calorie Balance
Protein is considered a crucial part of a balanced diet. This is due to the fact that protein gives energy equivalent to carbohydrate but with a greater impact on the metabolism.
Consumption of high protein foods helps in maintaining an ideal calorie balance as:-
- It provides a high satiety value. Therefore, suppress appetite and lowers calorie intake.
- It has a high thermic effect. Hence, with high protein foods, energy expenditure increases and subsequently, metabolic rate increases as well.
Therefore, a balance is set between calorie intake and calorie burn, giving the desirable outcome of a healthy, fit individual.
This same characteristic also aids in a healthy weight loss. You can get more information on role of Protein in weight loss by reading more on truweight’s blog.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA of an individual varies as per many factors including.
- Age- Protein requirement increases with the growing age.
- Special physiological conditions like pregnancy, lactation, recovery from injury or infection
- The body needs- As in athletics, bodybuilders, weight gainers
According to Harvard Medical School, the RDA for protein in a healthy individual is 0.8 gram per kg body weight. This value may be less or higher depending upon the physiological situations.
According to Indian body standards, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has come up with the reference value for RDA of protein.
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Protein on Your Plate: Chose Wisely
Though the internet is flooded with an ample amount of information on ‘protein-rich foods’, high protein foods’, ‘protein food sources for vegetarians’, etc., etc., even, we may be contented with our home cooked, healthy food. But it’s more about healthy and balanced food for the body’s proper and unwavering growth and development. High protein foods refer to protein sources which are not only more in quantity but also high in quality. Protein foods with high Biological value (BV) are the one with high quality and therefore, these digest easily and moreover, are readily available to the body.
Few examples of high protein foods are:-
- Lean meats and seafood
- Legumes and beans
- Dairy products
- Vegetables like green leafy
- Nuts and seeds
By going through this article (High Protein Diet Foods), we can say that high protein foods are extremely essential for normal functioning, regulation and maintenance of the body. Include protein rich, high-quality food sources for a sustainable and active lifestyle.