What is protein?
Protein is considered to be a type of molecular biology or macromolecule, containing one or long chains of amino acid residues. It performs many functions within its subject, including enzyme catalysis, DNA replication, responses to stimulation, and the metabolism process.
This substance was discovered by Gelite, a Dutch scientist in 1838. It is compared as an important building block for the human body because it builds our muscles, tendons, organ systems, and skin. Moreover, protein is also used to create enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitter chemicals, and other smaller substances to serve other purposes inside the human body. In other words, protein is the most important macromolecule contributing to the development and recovery of body muscle groups. Any shortage of protein will probably lead to severe damage to our bodies.
Protein and human height growth
As mentioned before, protein is the building block of the human body and makes up 18% of human weight. All of our cells and organs, including the liver, kidney, heart, skin, hair, brain, muscle, lymph, and blood plasma are constructed by protein.
Protein is crucial for infants from 0-6 years old, those in their early life, and the period of transformation. To be more specific, in their first 2 months, 50% of their protein intake is used for developing their bodies, the remaining 50% will maintain the activity status of muscles and tissues. At the age of 3, 11% of protein substances are absorbed for height growth and weight increase benefiting bone solidity.
Unbalanced diets during the growing period will probably have several negative impacts on bone growth. For example, protein deficiency will make our bones less solid due to the insufficient secretion of a type of hormone called Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). The reason for that is this hormone is an important ingredient in constructing our skeletal system. In addition, it helps to accelerate the absorption of calcium, and phosphorus in human guts, as well as strengthens the calcium and vitamin D converting process in the kidney.
There exists a strong positive relationship between the content of protein intake and the skeletal system weight in children. During their growing period, having enough protein content is a must to create a sufficient content of the hormone IGF-01, thus making full use of children's genetic potential for the development of bones, muscles, and neurons.
Changes in demand for protein intakes
According to the American National Academy of Sciences, under no circumstances should the minimum daily needed of protein intake for males be less than 56 grams, females than 46 grams, and children than 19 grams to 34 grams depending on age groups.
On no account should adults and elder people exceed the recommended amount of protein content, otherwise, their bodies will excrete calcium via the urinary system, which is a leading cause of kidney disease. Therefore, it is advisable to have a correct measurement of protein intake as suggested by an authentic nutritionist.
Not every one of us could acquire a good knowledge of nutrients nor always bring with us protein measuring tools. So the question is, how do we control our food daily food intake?
One simple way, as said by British nutritionists, is using the Hand-portion method can help to calculate the food portions we consume every day. It can be applied as follows:
- Protein: This could be found in fish, dairy products, seeds, and beans, measured by the size of our palms, not including fingers.
- Fat: As in cheeses, butter, and animal fat. We use the tip of our fingers to determine the correct portion for daily consumption
- Green vegetables and seeds: The needed portion would equal the size of both of our hands. It will contain enough fibers for one typical day.
- Carbohydrates: Because this biomolecule is rich in calories and fibers, as a consequence, it should account for one-fourth of daily meals. The suggested portion (before cooking) is exactly the size of one clasping hand.
- Sugar: Maximum 24 grams a day.
Dietary sources of protein
Animal-based protein sources
- Meat and poultry are well-known protein powerhouses, containing all essential amino acids. Beef, chicken, pork, and lamb are staples in many diets. The leaner the cut, the higher the protein-to-fat ratio, making them excellent choices for those aiming to increase their protein intake while managing fat consumption.
- Fish and seafood offer a double benefit: they are rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, cod, and shrimp are among the popular choices. Their protein content promotes muscle growth and repair while omega-3s contribute to cardiovascular health.
- Dairy is a well-rounded source of protein and calcium. Milk, yogurt, and cheese contain not only protein but also essential nutrients, like vitamin D and calcium, for maintaining strong bones. Greek yogurt, in particular, stands out for its high protein content and probiotics that support gut health.
Plant-based protein sources
- Legumes, including beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are fantastic plant-based protein sources. They are also packed with fiber, which aids digestion and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Nuts and seeds offer a nutrient-rich, protein-packed punch. Almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are just a few examples.
- Whole grains and cereals can also contribute to your daily protein intake. Quinoa, bulgur, and farro are grains rich in both protein and essential amino acids.
Protein in special diets
Protein in vegetarian and vegan diets
Vegetarian diets include a range of eating styles, all of which abstain from consuming meat. While some vegetarians include dairy and eggs in their diets, others, like vegans, exclude all animal products.
- Vegetarian diets often include dairy products, like yogurt, milk, and cheese, which are excellent sources of protein, particularly whey and casein.
- Eggs are a complete protein source, providing all essential amino acids in one package.
- Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are good examples of providing protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.
- Almonds, peanuts, and chia seeds are rich in protein and healthy fats.
- Many vegetarians also incorporate plant-based protein sources, like tofu, tempeh, and seitan into their diets.
Meanwhile, vegans avoid all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Their diet consists entirely of plant-based foods.
- Beans, lentils, and peas are a vegan's best friends, providing an abundance of protein, fiber, and nutrients.
- Soy-based products, like tofu and tempeh, offer high-quality protein and are versatile in cooking.
- Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats.
- Whole grains, like quinoa and farro, contain notable amounts of protein.
- Increasingly popular plant-based meat alternatives are designed to mimic the taste and texture of meat while providing plant-derived protein.
Protein in gluten-free and allergen-free diets
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. Individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity must follow a gluten-free diet.
- Unprocessed meats are naturally gluten-free and provide a significant source of protein.
- Fresh fish and seafood are gluten-free and rich in protein.
- Most dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, are gluten-free.
- Eggs are naturally gluten-free and a valuable source of protein.
- Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are gluten-free and provide plant-based protein options.
Meanwhile, individuals with food allergies must eliminate specific allergens from their diets, which can include common protein sources, like nuts, soy, or dairy.
- Those with allergies can find allergen-free versions of popular protein sources, such as nut-free kinds of butter and soy-free tofu alternatives.
- Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are allergen-free and provide protein.
- Grains, like quinoa and amaranth, are often safe options for those with allergies.
The role of protein in human growth cannot be overstated. It serves as the fundamental building block for the body, supporting not only the physical development of muscles and tissues but also crucial biochemical processes that keep us healthy and thriving. From infancy through adulthood, protein plays a pivotal role in ensuring that we reach our full growth potential.
Whether you choose animal-based or plant-based sources, understanding the diverse options for incorporating protein into your diet is key. With proper knowledge and planning, you can meet your protein needs while enjoying a wide array of delicious foods.
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