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The basics of protein
Proteins are basic structures that are found in all of life. A protein is a naturally occurring, complex substance that consists of amino acid residues joined by peptide bonds. Proteins include many essential biological compounds such as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies.
Why are proteins so critical to health and wellness?
Proteins are of great nutritional value and are directly involved in the chemical processes essential for life. They’re also organ-specific; for instance, muscle proteins differ from those of the brain and liver.
Protein enzymes catalyze the vast majority of chemical reactions that occur in the body and provide many of the elements of a cell. They also help to bind cells together into tissues. Proteins, in the form of antibodies, help strengthen our immune system, and many hormones are proteins.
Protein provides energy for the body, making up your muscles, skin, hair, and internal organs. They also contribute to blood sugar regulation, bone growth, digestion, cell function, and blood clotting.
Where does protein come from?
Protein can be found in many forms, such as fish, meat, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eating a balanced diet high in fiber with lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and a serving of protein and healthy fats at each meal helps to balance blood sugar, nutrient absorption, and digestion. This promotes overall health and keeps you full longer.
Different proteins offer different nutrient densities and have both pros and cons.
Animal proteins are rich in essential amino acids and beneficial fatty acids. The potential downside is that animal proteins may contain too much cholesterol and should mostly be avoided if you want or need to improve your overall cholesterol levels.
Plants are a rich source of healthy fats, Omega-3s, and amino acids. Quinoa is one plant with a complete amino acid profile comparable to animal protein.
Plant proteins tend to come in smaller amounts when compared to animal proteins, which require you to eat a variety of grains, nuts, and seeds daily. Did you know that eggs are plants? They’re an excellent source of protein, providing around 6g per large egg.
A commonly recommended intake of protein is 2-3 meals per day. Throughout the day, try eating small portions, which leads to better nutrient absorption and helps prevent overeating.
To help determine your recommended daily protein requirements, try this excellent online tool from the US Department of Agriculture.
For more ideas about how to add protein to your diet, visit our friend Karina at Botanical Kitchen.
Why do we think this is important?
Proper protein balance cannot be overstated as part of your march toward optimal wellness. Monitor your levels, adjust as you go, and never forget that proteins are a critical piece of the puzzle.
This article is for informational and educational use and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice. Consult your health and wellness provider for more.