What is Protein? What are the Functions of Protein?

What is protein? In short, protein is a very important macronutrient that is essential for the human body. It is an important organic compound because it is the building block of muscles, bones, skin and other tissues.

But what are proteins made of? Proteins are made up of amino acids, the building blocks of the human body. There are 20 different amino acids that can be used to make protein. The human body can make 11 of them. The other 9, however, must be taken through diet.

Protein is found in a wide variety of animal foods such as meat, poultry and fish, and in various foods such as beans and nuts. Protein can be obtained not only from animal sources but also from plant sources, for example from soy, which also contains protein.

The recommended daily protein intake is 50 grams for adults. However, the daily intake may be increased for those with special conditions, such as those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a physically demanding job.

One of the first answers to the question “What are protein functions?” is that it is responsible for the development and repair of tissues. Therefore, regular and proper intake of protein-containing foods is essential for the human body. Protein is also essential for the production of enzymes and hormones.

Protein is an organic compound made up of many amino acids. There are about 20 amino acids that make up a protein and the sequence of amino acids determines the function of the protein.

If we talk about the functions of protein, we can briefly say the following:

– Building and strengthening the fabric
– Repair and regenerate damaged tissues
– Transport of molecules in the body
– Supporting the immune system
– Ensuring the regulation of metabolism
– Providing the body’s energy needs
– Making nitrogen available to the body
– Ensure the development of muscle mass

What are the Food Sources of Protein?

For the question of what contains protein, animal and plant foods can be mentioned. Animal foods are rich in protein and are called “complete proteins”. These foods are known as such because they contain all the essential amino acids.

Another food group that contains protein is plant foods; beans, peas, lentils, soy products, spinach are in this group of foods. In a healthy dietary model, it is recommended to consume a combination of foods containing animal and vegetable proteins in order to get the necessary nutrients in full. The foods richest in animal protein are briefly as follows:

Animal Protein

– Lean beef
– Cheese
– Tuna fish
– Salmon
– Chicken
– Yogurt
– Milk
– Egg

What are the Benefits of Protein?

– Protein-heavy foods keep you full and therefore less calorie intake
– It helps to maintain muscle mass and strengthen muscles. May reduce muscle loss during weight loss
– It protects the bones. Reduces the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures
– Protein benefits include the fact that a protein-rich diet helps reduce nighttime snacking cravings
– A high-protein breakfast makes the day more energetic
– Accelerates metabolism
– Another benefit of protein is that it helps you burn more calories throughout the day
– Reduces high blood pressure and bad cholesterol
– Imbalanced protein intake can be harmful for those with kidney problems
– Allows you to recover faster after an injury
– Reduces muscle loss associated with aging

What are the Harms of Excess Protein Intake?

– Increases the rate of aging
– Increases cancer risk
– Increases bone resorption
– Increases the risk of depression
– Can cause carbohydrate starvation
– Triggers kidney diseases
– Negatively affects the colon

What are the Symptoms of Protein Deficiency?

The body must get the protein it needs in full through regular nutrition. In case of protein deficiency, the body starts to use the protein stored in the muscles. This can lead to many health problems such as hair loss and muscle wasting. What are the symptoms of protein deficiency? These symptoms can be briefly listed as follows:

– Malaise
– Excessive weight loss due to muscle loss
– Constant fatigue
– Brittle nails
– Hair loss
– Edema that may occur as a result of fluid accumulation, especially in the feet and ankles
– Skin problems such as dryness and redness
– Nausea, abdominal pain
– Digestive system problems
– Menstrual irregularities
– Insomnia, severe headache
– Mood changes, depression
– In advanced stages, gallstone formation, arthritis, muscle wasting and organ failure

Protein consumption by age groups

Although protein intake is given in average amounts, it can vary according to age, gender and many other factors. Paying attention to these points is very important when determining the correct and regular daily protein intake.

Importance of Protein Intake during Pregnancy

Like other nutrients, your baby needs protein from you during pregnancy. Proteins are one of the most important nutritional requirements for the baby during pregnancy for bone development, muscle development and tissue construction. For this reason, attention should be paid to the intake of foods containing the right amount of protein, especially during pregnancy.

Adequate protein intake is very important for new cell construction, healthy tissue development in the mother and blood production. In addition, adequate protein consumption during pregnancy is important to reduce the risk of stillbirth and birth defects.

Adequate protein-containing food consumption by the mother lays the foundations for healthy growth and development of the baby. The average protein intake during pregnancy is 80 grams. The quality of the protein intake is also very important at this point.

Animal proteins such as meat, milk and eggs are more bioavailable than vegetable proteins. They are also more likely to be used as building blocks in the body after consumption.

The Importance of Protein Intake for Children

Many mechanisms that occur in the body during children’s growth and development require proteins. When the body does not get enough protein, body cells cannot regenerate and grow sufficiently. Children’s protein needs should be met in a balanced and sufficient amount from both food groups, i.e. plant and animal products.

Apart from animal and plant-based proteins, breast milk is the most valuable source of protein we receive at the beginning of life.

According to scientific data, it is very important for children between the ages of 4 and 6 to complete their physical and mental development. For this, they need to consume an average of 20-25 grams of protein per day.

In children aged 7-9 years, this value is 26-38 grams on average. Finally, for children aged 10-13 years, an average daily protein intake of 39-60 grams is important.

The Importance of Daily Protein Intake for Adults

The daily protein intake should be balanced according to the number of meals consumed during the day. Paying attention to protein intake at every meal can be considered to meet the daily balanced protein intake.

The World Health Organization recommends that healthy adults should have a daily protein intake of at least 0.75 grams. According to this information, which is valid for both genders, the daily protein requirement for an average 70 kg person can be said to be in the range of 50-70 grams.

This coefficient applies to people leading a healthy and sedentary lifestyle, but it can also vary depending on a person’s weight and lifestyle. For example, athletes may have an increased daily protein intake.

In some diseases, the daily protein intake may need to be restricted.
Therefore, the daily protein requirement may vary according to various factors such as age, body muscle ratio, physiological status, and physical activity.

The Importance of Protein Intake for People Over 65

For people aged 65 and over, it is very important to consume adequate amounts of protein-containing foods at every meal to maintain body muscle mass. A balanced intake of proteins of animal and plant origin is as relevant for people over 65 as it is for people of any age.

In old age, if there is any injury, surgery, infection or chronic illness, then the need for protein increases. In old age, immune system function declines and therefore protein is needed more.

There may be some diseases that require restriction of protein-containing foods. For example, chronic kidney disease is one of these diseases. In such cases, a specialist doctor can be consulted to determine the daily protein intake. However, for someone without health problems, an average of 70 grams of protein will be sufficient in old age.