How Important is Protein in Our Diet?

We are all told time and time again to eat our protein, our fats and our carbohydrates, but what does it actually mean? What do these substances do for our bodies? Read on to find out more about how we take care of our bodies!

What is protein?

Proteins are large molecules in the body that play many critical roles and are responsible for the growth, structure, function and regulation of your body’s tissue, like skin and muscle, and organs. Chemically, proteins are made up of amino acids, each with a different function, that form in chain-like sequences. The pattern of these sequences determine the function of the protein, which can range from helping with our immune systems to building muscles! Our bodies produce some amino acids naturally, but others we need to get from our diet.

Why do we need it?

Proteins are vital in our bodies, as we need them in cell, tissue and organ production and maintenance. Proteins make up the chemical formula for antibodies (which fight foreign particles, such as viruses) and enzymes, which are responsible for all the chemical reactions in our bodies — like turning oxygen into carbon dioxide and food into energy. Proteins also make up some hormones — particularly growth hormones — and are used in transport and storage in the body (such as transporting blood and oxygen and storing fats). A protein deficiency can lead to muscle and tissue wastage, impaired mental health and organ failure. As you can see, proteins are incredibly important!

Natural sources of protein:

According to researchers, 10% of our daily calorie intake should be made up of protein. So where do we get it from? As we know, our top protein suppliers are animals. This makes sense really, as their bodies function similarly to ours; their cells, tissues and organs are also made up of proteins. Red meats, poultry, eggs and fish all contain huge quantities of protein — plenty for our recommended daily allowance. In just one large egg, there are 6 grams of protein! Alongside meats, dairy products are another huge source of our protein.

However, with more and more of us turning vegan, if you’re looking for a plant-based alternative — then look no further than nuts! Most people seem to worry about where vegans get their protein from — and yes, it is very important — but more than enough protein can be obtained daily from nuts and legumes! Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts and cashews — even as butters and pastes — provide more than enough protein for an average adult — there are 7 grams of protein in just 1/4 cup of almonds!

Protein supplements:

If you’re still worried you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, you can turn to supplements. Protein supplements — such as powders or protein bars — are recommended for adults who do a lot of physical exercise or who are trying to gain muscle mass. Contrary to popular belief, they can be used in weight loss, but results may vary as some protein powders contain lots of calories! Protein supplements are made from by-products of dairy produce — such as liquid whey — that are concentrated and put through processing steps to increase their protein content. There are vegan options too, of course, which are made with by-products of nuts or other plant-based ingredients, but the end result is similar: it is essentially concentrated protein.

When and how to take protein supplements:

The best time to take a protein supplement is anytime up to two hours after you exercise, during something called an ‘anabolic window’. This is generally agreed to be the best time for your body to use up protein and get the most out of nutrients provided.

Protein powders nowadays are often sold in a variety of types and flavours, so you may want to try some out before bulk purchasing! These can be taken with water, milk, put into milkshakes, smoothies, and even mixed into porridges and yoghurts. Protein bars are also perfect for on the go if you’re heading straight into the office after a workout! Click here for a range of protein supplements and to find the right one for you!

Written by Hollie Sherwood-Martin

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