Our bodies need proteins to make up the parts of our bodies: our muscles, skin, bones, tissue, immune system, cells and hair. Every type of protein has a specific function. For example:
1) Antibodies are a type of protein that fights off foreign invaders so that our white blood cells can destroy them.
2) Others such as insulin, regulates glucose metabolism by controlling our blood sugar.
3) The body also needs proteins to manufacture hemoglobin, which is the part in our red blood cells that carries oxygen to other parts of our bodies.
4) Proteins transport nutrients to other parts of the body.
5) The body uses proteins to burn fat by thermogenesis, which is where the body generates heat energy by raising our metabolic rate.
6) Proteins are needed to build up and maintain body tissues,including our muscles.
7) Enzymes and hormones are types of protein molecules.
You can see how important protein is to keeping our bodies functioning properly. Proteins are supplied through our diets and broken down into amino acids. There are (20) amino acids that the body needs to produce all of the proteins in our bodies. There are (10) that the body can synthesize and (10) that must come from foods.
These that must come from foods are: threonine, lysine, methionine, histidine, arginine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan. We need a daily supply of new proteins since our bodies do not store amino acids.
There are two types of protein sources: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins contain all the amino acids needed by our bodies and mostly come from animal products such as lean meats, seafood, dairy, whey and eggs. You will want to limit the amount of red meat in your diet as well as processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs and deli meats. These are full of sodium and preservatives. Keep your choices to those with lower saturated fats like low or non-fat dairy, salmon and lean, skinless turkey and chicken breast. There are a few vegetarian sources of complete proteins such as spirulina, quinoa, soy, amaranth, buckwheat and hemp seed. Some studies suggest limiting your soy to 2 to 4 times per week as the long term effect of isoflavones in soy are not known. Incomplete proteins are plant based sources of proteins that do not contain all of the amino acids needed by the body and must be combined to create a complete protein. Incomplete proteins fall in three categories. Grains which include wheat, rice, oats, barley, bulgar, cornmeal, oats and pasta. Legumes include kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, dried peas and lentils. Nuts and seeds include sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and other nuts. To get a complete protein, you want to combine foods from different groups such as beans and rice or hummus and pita bread or a veggie burger on whole grain bread makes a complete protein combination.
The recommended daily allowance of protein for men and women is .8 grams per 2.2 lbs of body weight.
Therefore a 175 lb man would need to eat about 64 grams every day and a 130 lb woman would need 47 grams. A diet with quality, lean protein sources improves muscle tone and helps with weight loss by keeping you full longer. Protein is vital for a healthy body inside and out, but just one component of a healthy diet. High quality protein, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats make up a not just a “diet”, but a lifestyle, a healthy way of eating for life.