Today we hear a lot about this nutrient ; of diets rich in protein to lose weight, or to increase muscle mass by supplementing the diet, with products specially formulated for this purpose; This is seen more in the world of athletes.

But what are proteins really? What function do they fulfill in our body? Should we consume them every day? What foods provide proteins?

Definition: what are proteins

First of all, you must know what kind of nutrient this is, in order to later be able to define well what they serve us for. The proteins are substances of very structure complex , based on monomers of nitrogen , better known as amino acids ; 20 different amino acids are currently known to combine with each other to form different types of proteins . These amino acids can be classified into:

  • Essential amino acids : these cannot be synthesized by the body and must be ingested with food or protein supplements.
  • Semi-essential amino acids : they are necessary only in certain stages of life or in certain situations.
  • Non-essential amino acids : these can be synthesized by the body from essential ones.

It is also important to know that proteins provide 4 calories per gram, that is, a food that has 10 grams of protein, provides 40 calories that come from these. It is recommended that around 15% of the calories that should be consumed in a day , for a healthy person, are provided by protein .

Functions performed in the body

This nutrient fulfills various functions in our body, which is why its daily consumption is essential . The main ones are:

1. Structural function

They constitute cellular structures, are part of cell membranes, are present in muscles, bones and supporting tissues such as collagen and elastin.

3. Enzyme function

They are part of the enzymes that act by accelerating all metabolic processes in the body.

3. Hormonal function

Many hormones in the body are of protein origin such as insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels, also growth hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and calcitonin, which regulates calcium metabolism, among others.

4. Regulatory function

There are proteins that participate in the regulation of gene expression and cell division.

5. Homeostatic function

They maintain osmotic balance and, together with other buffer systems, maintain stable body pH.

6. Defensive function

The cells of our immune system, immunoglobulins, mucins, etc. They are made up of proteins and help defend us against bacteria and external agents that could make us sick.

7. Transport function

Substances such as hemoglobin and myoglobin are oxygen carriers in the blood and are made up of proteins. Lipoproteins too and are responsible for the transport of cholesterol and other fats in the blood.

8. Energy function

This function is the least relevant of all since carbohydrates and fats are responsible for this; but in special situations of malnutrition due to lack of intake of the latter two, proteins can provide calories but generating organic weakness due to the consumption of endogenous proteins.

Foods that provide protein

The proteins of high biological value , ie the best quality, found in food source animals : meat (beef, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, etc.) milk and its derivatives such as yogurt and cheese; and the egg. These foods by themselves provide all the essential amino acids .

The vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes also have protein but these do not are of high biological value not to have all the essential amino acids, so they must be combined with each other or with other foods of animal origin to meet the requirement necessary.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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