A healthy diet requires all the nutrients in the optimum quantity as required for healthy functioning of the body. Any nutrient below or above the required amount can make this functioning, a difficult process.
Of all the nutrients that your body needs, protein is the most important for good health and fitness. Unlike the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, protein is a macronutrient which is required in large amount to stay healthy.
What is Protein?
Protein is said to be the building block of a human body and is a component of every cell in the body including hair and nails.
Along with Carbohydrates and Fats, Proteins is one of the primary macronutrients that provides the most of the energy to the body. This macronutrient is made up of amino acids which a human body can produce on its own.
Importance of Protein
Besides building bones, and body tissues, protein plays an important role in metabolic reactions, immune response, providing energy to the body, assisting the body in cellular repair, forming blood cells, and more.
Protein is a vital macronutrient for growth and development in young children as well.
Since protein is the component of every cell in our body, not getting enough protein in your diet can cause many health issues.
Sources of Protein
The amount of essential amino acids defines the nutritional value of a protein. The content of amino acids is different in different foods.
Animal products are ideally high-quality ‘complete’ protein containing all of the essential amino acids. Chicken, beef or fish and dairy products are all forms of animal protein.
Besides, soybean products, quinoa and amaranth also have all of the essential amino acids.
On the other hand, Plant proteins including beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains usually do not contain all the essential amino acids and therefore are considered ‘incomplete’ proteins.
People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet usually have difficulty fulfilling their regular protein requirement. They need to choose a variety of protein sources from a combination of plant foods to ensure an adequate mix of essential amino acids.
Below is the list of food items which are high in protein:
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Lean Beef
- Pumpkin Seeds
Supplementing Protein to Fulfill Body’s Requirement
To help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass, athletes and fitness professionals many times need to use supplements of the nutrients alongside their resistance exercise. In that case, protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement.
There are many benefits of protein powder:
- Improve muscle size and strength in healthy adults who perform resistance exercise training.
- Reduce muscle damage and improve muscle performance and muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults who perform resistance exercise training.
- Elderly people, people with a chronic illness, athletes and weightlifters may need to exceed the general protein intake on a recommendation.
Types of Protein Supplements
Whey Protein – Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid part of milk separated from the solid curds during the process of making cheese.
Whey protein provides enough amounts of the essential amino acids as required by the body to carry out the functions that proteins perform in the body. It is normally taken by people to improve athletic performance or meet nutritional deficiencies.
Once the whey is from curd, it is further processed to become whey protein powder that can be added to shakes, meals or protein bars.
Soy Protein – Soy protein isolate is naturally high in protein but very low in carbohydrates. This form of protein supplement has been shown as a source of lean, cholesterol-free and lactose-free protein which aids health needs across the lifespan.
Protein Isolates – Protein is extracted from whole food using heat and acid or enzymes to produce protein concentrates. These concentrates normally contain 60–80% protein and remaining 20–40% fat and carbs. On additional filtering, these fats and carbs are removed to form protein isolate powders which contain about 90–95% protein.
A healthy diet is crucial to maintain an active lifestyle. So, you must eat a variety of foods even to meet your body’s nutritional requirement.
Out of all the nutrients that your body needs, protein helps your body in repairing the cells and making new ones. It is also important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women.
While protein is an important nutrient, other nutrients are equally important to maintaining good health. So, talk to your nutrition expert and ensure a healthy and optimum supply of all the nutrients in your body.