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Protein: That’s why it’s important

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 414 views

Protein , also known as protein, is the third main nutrient (macronutrient) next to carbohydrates and fats. It provides the body with important building blocks, the so-called amino acids. We cannot live without proteins because amino acids are involved in many processes in the body. Read here what you need protein for and how you absorb it.

What are proteins?

Protein comes from the Greek word proteuo, which means “I take first place”. That’s not such a wrong description, because we simply couldn’t exist without proteins. Protein is colloquially called protein.

Foods with a lot of protein should be on the daily menu because they are a building material for our body. They are involved in muscle building and maintenance, part of hormones, enzymes and stabilize tissue. Every cell contains several thousand different proteins.

From a chemical point of view, proteins contain not only the three elements C (carbon), O (oxygen) and H (hydrogen) but also nitrogen (N), which plays an important role in the organism. Therefore, they are vital in numerous processes that affect the nitrogen content in the body.

The proteins consist of building blocks, the so-called amino acids, of which the body needs 20 but cannot produce eight itself. This includes:

  • Leucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Threonin
  • Methionine
  • Answer
  • Isoleucin
  • Lysine
  • Phenylalanin

These amino acids are also called “essential”. This means that they must be ingested through protein-rich food.

The type and amount of amino acids determine the value of the respective protein in the diet. Protein is not just protein, depending on the source, the proteins are composed of different amino acids.

What does protein do?

Basically, there are different places in the body where proteins are used:

  • Structural Proteins: These proteins give cells their shape and include collagen , elastin, and keratin.
  • Transport proteins : Myoglobin, albumin and hemoglobin are responsible for transporting oxygen or fat .
  • Storage proteins : help the body to store certain substances (e.g. ferritin).
  • Contractile proteins: in the form of myosin, ensure that the muscles contract, with their help people move.
  • Protective Proteins : Components of our immune system, better known as antibodies. Humans also need protein (fibroogen) for blood clotting.

Proteins also include many hormones and enzymes involved in various processes in the body.

Proteins are broken down in the organism every day and their building blocks are excreted. These have to be replaced with food. Dietary proteins provide the body with essential amino acids, which it needs to build muscles, organs, cartilage, bones, skin, hair and nails.

Protein is not normally used to generate energy, the body only uses the protein reserves in emergency situations. For example, during a zero diet , plenty of protein-rich muscle is lost, especially if the muscles aren’t being used due to a lack of exercise.

Animal protein vs. vegetable protein

You can easily meet your protein requirements with a healthy, varied diet that contains both animal and plant-based foods .

Protein from animal sources is easier for humans to utilize because they are much more similar in structure and type of amino acids. One speaks here of a higher biological “value” because one has to absorb less of it in order to replace the proteins that are broken down daily in the organism.

Animal protein is in

  • meat
  • Fisch
  • Owner
  • Dairy products

However, animal protein also has disadvantages compared to the plant-based variant. The corresponding foods contain more unhealthy fats and purines and potentially contribute more to the cholesterol balance.

The biological “value” of the proteins can be increased with a trick: if you eat animal and vegetable proteins together, the body uses them better. This works well with the following combinations, for example: potatoes with eggs, cereals with milk or potatoes with dairy products.

This makes protein nutrition biologically more valuable – with less fat, cholesterol and purines, more complex carbohydrates, digestive fiber and fewer calories.

You can read about which plant-based foods and products contain proteins in the  Plant-based protein article .

Protein requirement: When does protein become harmful?

How much protein you need per day depends on your constitution and stage of life. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for adolescents and adults. Seniors have a slightly higher requirement – the DGE recommends 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for people aged 65 and over.

The absolute minimum is 13 to 17 grams in total. A protein deficiency has a negative effect on bone structure and the immune system . Anyone who consumes protein in excess of the recommended value every day runs the risk of kidney damage.

Learn more about daily  protein needs in this post .

Protein: High content foods

Ideally, 10 to 20 percent of the total daily calorie intake consists of protein. There are several foods that contain protein, including:

  • Parmesan
  • tuna
  • ground beef
  • wheat germ
  • soybeans
  • lenses
  • figs
  • peanut butter

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