Proteins- The building blocks of your body

Shilpa Joshi, RD April / 09 / 2019
Proteins are one of the macronutrients that are needed in adequate amounts for proper body growth and development. They make up the major structure of all living cells. These are large, complex molecules composed of amino acids joined together to make long chains just like beads used for making a necklace. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. Out of these amino acids, some can be made by the body while some cannot be made and are therefore called as essential amino acids. These essential amino acids should be taken in through our diets.

Different food proteins contain different amounts of essential amino acids and these decide the quality of the proteins. If the protein contains a proper proportion of all essential amino acids, then it is a high-quality protein or complete protein. Most animal proteins are complete proteins.

Vegetarian proteins have one or more essential amino acids in inadequate amounts so their quality is lower than that desired. Their quality is further lowered due to the presence of tannins and other substances which interfere with the digestion of proteins so their amino acids are not fully available to make the proteins needed by the body. Fortunately, some vegetarian foods are complementary in their protein quality. Grains are deficient in lysine while pulses are deficient in tryptophan and/or methionine. Therefore, when grains like rice or wheat are consumed together with pulses in a diet, their combined protein quality is elevated. That is why eating dal with cooked rice or roti provides better protein mix than consuming either of them alone. However, they still do not measure up to animal proteins. Soya protein is the only exception of the complete protein of vegetable origin.

Functions of proteins:

Dietary proteins turn into amino acids after digestion and these are made into body proteins. Body tissues, muscles, enzymes, hormones etc. are all proteins.

  • Proteins are the chief constituents of muscles, organs and endocrine glands. They are present in every living cell of our body and are required for growth and maintenance of each cell.
  • Immune proteins also known as antibodies are necessary for carrying out immunity reactions building resistance to diseases.
  • All enzymes are protein in nature and are required for all the enzymatic reactions.
  • Proteins help in transporting oxygen and fat in the blood and other body fluids.
  • Thus, our growth, maintenance, and health all depend on protein and so it has a special place in our diet.

    It is therefore recommended to take 1 g of protein per kg of body weight for adults and some more for pregnant women, infants and growing children.

    Consume protein and let it nourish your body enhancing its functions and making it stronger.

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