About the role of proteins in a balanced diet

Proteins are organic compounds that make up every cell in the human body.

Let’s recall the main functions of proteins:

  •  proteins are the basis of connective tissue, they provide its structure and strength. The entire human body - hair, nails, bones, muscles, skin, and other organs and systems are "built" from proteins;
  •  regenerate damaged cells, renew, restore injured parts of the body;
  •  erythrocytes (red blood cells) contain a protein compound - hemoglobin, which provides gas exchange and maintains a stable metabolism;
  •  enzymes, which are catalysts for biochemical reactions, are synthesized in the body from proteins that come with food;
  •  proteins are necessary to regulate the level of biologically active substances - hormones which are produced by the endocrine glands, and which coordinate the functioning of the whole organism;
  •  protect against infections - provide immunity. Antibodies are proteins. In case of deficiency of carbohydrates and fats, proteins can be used as an energy source.

Proteins and exercise

For people who regularly and purposefully engage in physical exercise, especially strength training, high-protein foods are necessary for:

  •  building and maintaining the required amount of muscle mass;
  •  effective recovery of the body after stress or possible injuries;
  •  increasing the intensity of metabolic processes in the body;
  •  rapid satisfaction of hunger, which helps an athlete to keep the weight normal.

The role of proteins at the age of 50+

At an older age (usually after 50), a person has an increased risk of sarcopenia - a loss of physical strength due to a decrease in muscle mass, while the amount of subcutaneous fat often increases due to a sedentary lifestyle. To prevent or slow down this negative process, experts advise older people to maintain a high daily intake of quality protein foods.

What do we know about the “complete” protein?

Proteins are made up of amino acids, nine of which are not synthesized in the body, are essential, and must come from food. “People need to consume protein every day. Daily protein intake plays a role in keeping your cells in good shape, and should be part of your healthy lifestyle,” says Nancy Waldeck, Chef and Nutritionist at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, California, USA. Proteins are found in food of both animal and vegetable origin, and the human need for them is fully provided by a varied balanced diet. However, it is especially important that the products contain essential amino acids.

Protein of the highest quality (“complete”, or “ideal”) is found in beef, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Vegetarians and vegans can use soy and soy products as a source of “complete” protein, and add quinoa leaves to salads. Dishes made from amaranth seed groats (a grain crop known to the ancient Aztecs) are gaining popularity. They contain up to 28% of high-quality protein, which is easily and almost completely absorbed by the body.

“Incomplete” vegetable proteins, which lack at least one essential amino acid, are found in beans, nuts, lentils, and whole grains.

Developments of nutritionists, scientists and physicians - steps forward

Nutritionists, doctors, and scientists, taking into account the latest research, have developed many diets aimed at maintaining health and prolonging the quality of human life. Let's pay attention, in particular, to the Australian dietary guidelines posted on the website eatforhealth.gov.au.

Experts from Green Continent have divided the foods they eat according to their nutritional value into five main groups. Using various combinations of products from all groups, a person will receive a balanced menu and satisfy his body's need for almost all nutrients.

1. A variety of vegetables, legumes.

2. A variety of fruits.

3. Whole grain bread, rice, couscous, and other high fiber cereals.

4. Lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood, nuts, seeds.

5. Milk, yogurt, cheese (preferably low fat).

We emphasize that the list does not include semi-finished products, sauces, products containing trans fats, added sugar, salt, smoked meats ... The largest amount of “complete” protein is found in products of the fourth and fifth groups.

WHO recommendations

Protein intake rates depend on gender, age, physical activity, and health condition. On average, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that healthy adults consume 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (it is easy to calculate that a man weighing 80 kg needs to receive 66.4 grams of protein per day). Protein content in the products can be found in the corresponding tables on the Internet. For example, 100 g of beef contains about 22 g of protein, chicken fillet - 23.5 g, lentils - 24 g.

Protein deficiency - body problems

Protein deficiency has negative health consequences:

  •  loss of muscle mass;
  •  decreased immunity;
  •  swelling of the legs - accumulation of fluid in the feet and ankles;
  •  anemia (due to hemoglobin deficiency);
  •  fast fatigue, loss of strength

Nutritionists advise to increase the amount of protein in your diet if you notice the symptoms listed above.

  •  add low-fat cottage cheese to pasta dishes (made from durum wheat) or scrambled eggs;
  •  make a natural peanut butter sandwich for breakfast (no added sugar or salt). Here is an interesting, tasty, and healthy recipe: cut the middle of half an apple and season with pean-ut butter;
  •  cook various dishes using beans more often: soups, salads, casseroles, meatballs and, of course, the classic food of Georgian cuisine and long-living highlanders - lobio;
  •  supplement green salads with pumpkin seeds and nuts (almonds, peanuts);
  •  an excellent source of protein - Greek yogurt, which can be consumed with fresh fruits, cereals at any time of the day

Too much protein is bad for your health

The human body is a very finely tuned balanced “mechanism”, and the overconsumption of protein foods can lead to serious disruptions in its work. Studies confirm that excess protein puts an increased burden on the kidneys, and this can lead to nephropathy. Loss of calcium can weaken bones, reduce bone mass, and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

By following the Australian Dietary Guidelines or the WHO recommendations for protein intake, you will get enough protein to function properly and stay healthy.