Protein is an essential macronutrient, but not all food sources of protein are created equal. Protein is found throughout the body in muscles, bones, skin, hair, and almost every part or other body tissue. It forms an enzyme that drives the many meanings of chemical reactions and hemoglobin that carry oxygen in the blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make us who we are and keep us that way.
Proteins made from are called amino acids. Because we don’t store amino acids. Protein has very important benefits for our body. The effects of protein deficiency and malnutrition range from the severity of growth failure and loss of muscle mass to decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and even causing death.
table of contents
- Benefits of Protein
- Causes of biochemical reactions
- Maintain the right pH
- Balance the liquid
- Boosts immunity
- Providing Energy
- Important for growth and development in children and adolescents
- Helps grow and maintain muscles
- Helps increase feelings of fullness
- Good for bone health
- Reduces cravings and the desire to snack late at night
- Increase metabolism and increase fat burning
- Helps maintain weight
- Does not harm healthy kidneys
- Helps to stay in shape with age
- Better sleep patterns
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- Benefits of Protein
Proteins perform various functions in the body of an organism, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, DNA replication, responding to stimuli, providing structure to cells, and organisms, and transporting molecules from one location to another.
Proteins differ from each other mainly in the order of amino acids, which are determined by the nucleotide sequences of their genes, and which usually produce proteins folded into specific three-dimensional structures that determine their activity.
The linear chain of amino acid residues is called polypeptide. A protein contains at least one long polypeptide. Short polypeptides, containing less than 20-30 residues, are rarely considered proteins and are usually called peptides, or sometimes oligopeptides.
Individual amino acid residues are bound together by peptide bonds and adjacent amino acid residues. The order of amino acid residues in a protein is determined by the order of genes, which are encoded in the genetic code.
Definition of Protein
Protein is a macronutrient that is important for building muscle mass. This is commonly found in animal products, although it is also found in other sources, such as nuts. Besides protein, there are two other macronutrients namely fat and carbohydrate.
In terms of chemical properties , proteins are composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults obtain a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just more than 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.
Understanding Protein According to Experts
The definition of protein according to experts, among others:
British Nutrition Foundation
Protein is a fundamental structural and functional element in every cell of the body and is involved in various metabolic interactions. All cells and tissues contain protein, therefore protein is essential for growth and repair and maintenance of good health.
Protein gives the body about 10 to 15% of its food energy and is the second most abundant compound in the body, after water. Most of this is muscle (an average of 43%) with a significant proportion found in the skin (15%) and blood (16%).
Benefits of Protein
The following are the importance and various benefits of protein for human life in daily life, including:
1. Causes of biochemical reactions
Enzymes are proteins that help thousands of biochemical reactions that occur inside and outside the body’s cells. The structure of enzymes allows proteins to join with other molecules in cells called substrates, which catalyze reactions that are important for metabolism.
Enzymes can also function outside the cell, such as digestive enzymes such as lactase and sucrase, which help digest sugar.
- Acting as a messenger
Some proteins are hormones, which are chemical messengers that help communication between cells, tissues, and organs. These hormones are made and secreted by endocrine tissue or glands and then transported in the blood to target tissues or organs where they bind to protein receptors on the cell surface.
- Provides Structure
Some proteins are fibrous and provide rigidity to cells and tissues. These proteins include keratin, collagen, and elastin, which help form the framework of connecting certain structures in the body.
Keratin is a structural protein found in the skin, hair and nails. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a structural protein of bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin.
Elastin is several hundred times more flexible than collagen. Its high elasticity allows many tissues in our body to return to its original shape after stretching or contracting, such as our uterus, lungs and arteries.
4. Maintain the right pH
Protein plays an important role in regulating the concentration of acids and bases in the blood and other body fluids. The balance between acids and bases is measured using a pH scale. These range from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral and 14 being the most basic.
Examples of pH values of common substances include: pH 2: Gastric acid; pH 4: Tomato juice; pH 5: Black coffee; pH 7.4: Human blood; pH 12: Soap water. Various buffer systems allow our body fluids to maintain a normal pH range. A constant pH is required, because a slight change in pH can be dangerous or potentially deadly.
One of the ways our body regulates pH is with protein. An example is hemoglobin, a protein that forms red blood cells. Hemoglobin binds to small amounts of acid, helping to maintain the normal pH value of our blood. Other buffer systems in our body include phosphate and bicarbonate.
5. Balance the liquid
Protein regulates the body’s processes to maintain fluid balance. Albumin and globulin are proteins in the blood that help maintain body fluid balance by attracting and retaining water.
If we don’t consume enough protein, albumin and globulin levels eventually decrease. As a result, these proteins can no longer store blood in blood vessels, and fluid is forced into the space between the cells of our body.
When fluid continues to accumulate in the spaces between these cells, swelling or edema occurs, especially in the abdominal area. This is a form of severe protein malnutrition called kwashiorkor that develops when a person consumes enough calories but doesn’t consume enough protein.
6. Boosts immunity
Protein helps form immunoglobulins, or antibodies, to fight infections. Antibodies are proteins in our blood that help protect our body from harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses. When these foreign invaders enter the body’s cells, our body produces antibodies that mark them for elimination.
Without these antibodies, bacteria and viruses will be free to multiply and flood our bodies with the diseases they cause. After our bodies produce antibodies against certain bacteria or viruses, our body cells will never forget how to make them.
This allows the antibodies to respond quickly when certain disease agents attack our bodies. As a result, our body develops immunity against exposed diseases.
7. Providing Energy
Protein can supply energy to our body. Protein contains four calories per gram, the same amount of energy given carbohydrates. Fat supplies the most energy, which is nine calories per gram. However, the last thing our body wants to use for energy is protein because this valuable nutrient is widely used throughout our body.
Carbohydrates and fats are far more suitable for providing energy, because our bodies maintain reserves for use as fuel. In addition, they are metabolized more efficiently compared to protein. In fact, protein supplies our body with very little energy needed under normal circumstances.
However, in a state of fasting (18-48 hours without food intake), our bodies break down skeletal muscle so that amino acids can provide us with energy. Our body also uses amino acids from skeletal muscle that are damaged if carbohydrate storage is low. This can happen after a tiring workout or if we don’t consume enough calories in general.
8. Important for growth and development in children and adolescents
Children and adolescents experience significant growth and development. Among other nutrients, growth depends on getting adequate food protein – this is because the protein acts as a building block for body tissues, including muscles and bones.
After we eat or drink something that contains protein, our body begins to break it down into small units called peptides and amino acids, which we absorb into our bloodstream and use in our bodies.
There are about 20 different amino acids which, once absorbed, form or replace parts of our body tissue. In fact, without protein, we have little structure or function for our bodies.
9. Helps grow and maintain muscles
While muscle growth and maintenance is perhaps the most well-known benefit that protein has to offer – many people think this particular role might only be relevant for bodybuilders and sports enthusiasts.
However, strong muscles are important for all age groups – from helping to ensure children can stay active, to helping the older generation move, be fit, and be independent.
Maintaining healthy muscles is also an important part of having a healthy body composition. Our bodies build muscle from amino acids – so when combined with exercise such as weight training, protein can help us increase and maintain muscle mass.
- Helps repair tissue and wounds
Protein is present in every body tissue, and this includes our skin, so it makes sense if protein plays a role in wound repair.
Again, this is something that is relevant for all age groups, ranging from what is important in repairing injuries to your child’s knees, to healing wounds that become more common as we age and our skin becomes more fragile.
In fact, adequate protein intake in the elderly is associated with less skin fragility and better wound healing.
11. Helps increase feelings of fullness
In addition to the functional quality provided by protein in our bodies, it has been shown that increasing protein intake helps increase feelings of fullness or reduce hunger.
Incorporating more protein in our main meal or having a protein-rich snack between meals, can help us feel full without eating large amounts of food.
12. Good for bone health
A continuing myth perpetuates the idea that protein – especially animal protein – is bad for our bones. This is based on the idea that protein increases the acid content in the body, which causes leaching of calcium from our bones to neutralize acid.
However, most long-term studies show that protein, including animal protein, has great benefits for bone health. People who eat more protein tend to maintain bone mass better as they age and have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
13. Reduces cravings and the desire to snack late at night
The desire to eat is different from normal hunger. It’s not only about our body that needs energy or nutrition but our brain needs more food. However, cravings can be very difficult to control. The best way to deal with it is to prevent it from happening in the beginning.
One of the best prevention methods is to increase our protein intake. One study in overweight men showed that an increase in protein by up to 25% in calories reduced desire by 60% and the desire to snack at night by half
Likewise, a study of overweight teenage girls found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings and snacking at night. This can be mediated by the increased function of dopamine, one of the main brain hormones involved in cravings and addictions.
14. Increase metabolism and increase fat burning
Eating can increase our body’s metabolism for a while. That’s because our body uses calories to digest and utilize nutrients in food. This is called the thermal effect of food (TEF).
However, not all foods are the same in this case. In fact, protein has a much higher thermal effect than fat or carbohydrates – 20–35% compared to 5-15% (21 Trusted Source).
High protein intake has been shown to significantly increase metabolism and increase the number of calories burned. This can produce 80-100 more calories burned every day.
- Reducing blood pressure
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease. Interestingly, higher protein intake has been shown to lower blood pressure. In a review of 40 controlled trials, increased protein reduced systolic blood pressure (top reading) by an average of 1.76 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the lowest reading) by 1.15 mm Hg.
One study found that, in addition to lowering blood pressure, high protein foods also reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
16. Helps maintain weight
Foods high in protein increase metabolism and lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake and cravings, many people who increase their protein intake tend to lose weight almost instantly.
One study found that overweight women who ate 30% of their calories from protein lost 11 pounds (5 kg) in 12 weeks – even though they accidentally restricted their food. Protein also has the benefit of losing fat during intentional calorie restriction.
A modest increase in protein intake has been shown to help maintain weight. In one study, increasing protein from 15% to 18% of calories reduced weight by 50%.
17. Does not harm healthy kidneys
Many people mistakenly believe that high protein intake harms the kidneys. It is true that limiting protein intake can be beneficial for people already suffering from kidney disease before. This should not be taken lightly, because kidney problems can be very serious.
However, while high protein intake can harm individuals with kidney problems, it has no relevance to people with healthy kidneys. In fact, many studies underline that foods high in protein do not have harmful effects on people without kidney disease.
18. Helps to stay in shape with age
One consequence of aging is that our muscles gradually weaken. The most severe cases are referred to as age-related sarcopenia, which is one of the main causes of weakness, fractures, and decreased quality of life among older adults.
Eating more protein is one of the best ways to reduce age-related muscle damage and prevent sarcopenia. Staying physically active is also very important, and lifting weights or doing some kind of resistance training can benefit our bodies.
19. Better sleep patterns
If we have trouble sleeping soundly, then increasing the protein in our food can help. This study explains the results of two randomized studies in overweight and obese adults.
After the 12-week trial, they concluded that “a greater proportion of energy from protein during the diet can improve sleep quality in overweight and obese adults”.
If we still have trouble sleeping with high protein foods, then a small amount of carbohydrates at our dinner can help by increasing serotonin levels, making us more sleepy and ready to sleep.
- A better quality of life
If we want strong health and the ability to work well, then strength, mobility, muscle mass, staying lean and having good internal functions are very important. Increasing protein intake alone will not provide all of these benefits.
However, as part of an overall food and fitness program, this can have a significant impact that will give us a much better quality of life now and as we get older.
A high protein diet can make a difference to our overall health and performance, if combined with exercise programs and the right lifestyle choices. Depending on our food preferences, choose a variety of high-quality protein sources, including all types of meat, fish, eggs, and nuts.