We Need Proteins!
The famous protein… The macronutrient contained in so many different foods! Proteins have various roles in the human body… But do you know all its roles and what they really mean in your body?
Proteins and the Formation of Body Tissues
Proteins play different roles in your body. First of all, they are essential for the formation of muscles, blood and even skin!
In fact, proteins form most of your body structures. For example, for bone formation, proteins are involved in the formation of collagen, which is one of the first layers of bone.
In addition, proteins repair the body’s tissues. In case of injury or surgery, proteins are essential for recovery.
Neurotransmitters, Hormones and Antibodies Are Formed Thanks To Proteins
Proteins also provide the amino acids necessary for the formation of neurotransmitters, cellular communication molecules. Indeed, neurotransmitters transmit a message from one neuron to another, or to muscle cells or glands.
For example, serotonin (involved in sleep, mood, depression) is produced from tryptophan. A deficiency in the amino acid tryptophan results in a decrease in this neurotransmitter, ultimately affecting sleep or mood.
In the same sense, proteins form certain hormones, such as insulin, glucagon and growth hormones. Proteins therefore have a role in the regulation of glucose metabolism and development!
Subsequently, proteins form antibodies, glycoproteins of the adaptive immune system.
Proteins for the Immune System
The immune system? It is the immune system that develops following exposure to pathogens!
Antibodies are the main immunoglobulins in the blood, which are recognition, binding and adhesion cells.
So when your body is invaded by an infection, for example, the immunoglobulins (in the form of antibodies) recognize the intruder and trigger the immune response of the adaptive system. This system triggers a series of reactions to protect you!
Proteins as Cellular Transporters
Proteins also form certain transporters in your body. They are found in certain cell membranes, crossing the cell completely. These membrane proteins have different roles:
- Transport of molecules across the membrane, for example glucose;
- Reception and transmission of signals (hormones, neurotransmitters…) through the membrane;
- Shaping and adhesion between membranes, allowing cells to stick together;
- Intercellular recognition;
- Binding of the extracellular matrix, activating other cellular mechanisms.
Again, you see that proteins have many roles in your body, which is why they are essential in your diet!
Enzymes: Reaction Gas Pedals
Enzymes are proteins that cause reactions in your body. They are actually catalysts, which means that reactions that normally occur are accelerated in the presence of enzymes.
In addition, enzymes are essential in the digestive process. For example, lipases help digest lipids, proteases help digest proteins and lactase helps digest lactose.
The Acid-Base Balance of the Body Thanks to Proteins
Proteins also regulate the acid-base balance of fluids. If the acid-base balance of the blood or body tissues is threatened, there is a buffer system based on proteins.
The Body's pH
A buffer system acts to maintain a constant pH when acid or base is added. The body is extremely sensitive to changes in blood pH. A variation in blood pH can have detrimental effects and even lead to death, which is why buffer systems are essential!
Proteins Are a Source of Energy
Finally, proteins are also a source of energy for your body! However, it is not the main source of energy like carbohydrates.
In fact, when your body needs energy, its main source is carbohydrates. When these are depleted, your body will use your fat reserves as an energy source. Then, when these are empty, your body will use your protein reserves, mostly stored in your muscles, to metabolize energy.
This phenomenon occurs in case of fasting for more than 20 hours, intense training or low-calorie consumption!
What foods are rich in protein?
One of the best sources of protein is meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese, kefir…) and seafood. These are proteins of animal origin and their proteins are considered complete, meaning that they contain all the essential amino acids.
Did you know that...
in a large egg (weighing at least 56 g), you will find about 6 g of complete protein?
When it comes to plant-based proteins, you can turn to tofu! You can also find protein in legumes, nuts, lentils and quinoa.
Even some vegetables provide protein on a smaller scale! A 100 g serving of cooked potato (with skin) will provide you with 4.3 g of protein and a 100 g serving of canned green peas will provide a similar amount!
On the other hand, protein sources of plant origin often contain so-called incomplete proteins, since they do not contain all the essential amino acids.
Protein Complementarity: An Outdated Concept
You can therefore rely on varying the sources of protein during the same day to ensure that you have a good variety of amino acids, vitamins and minerals! This is what used to be called protein complementarity.
Researchers used to think that you had to combine certain foods at the same meal for your body to make complete proteins, but new research has concluded that diversification can take place over the course of a day. That’s good! But don’t eat the same thing from morning to night! Make sure you spread your food out over the day by planning your meals for the week.
So, for example, if you have breakfast with peanut butter toast, lunch with an egg sandwich and fruit yogurt, and finally spaghetti with lentil sauce at dinner time, you’ll meet your proteins – and amino acid – needs for the day!
Well, proteins are really essential to the functioning of a multitude of reactions in your body! From your immune system, to your development and as a source of energy, proteins are everywhere! Your diet must meet your protein needs to ensure that your body has enough proteins to live life to the fullest!