Why Do We Need Protein?

Protein is one of the macronutrients required by the human body as they are required in large amounts by the body. Proteins are involved in performing a large number of important functions of the body that are essential for maintaining life. To get the needed amounts of protein, it is recommended that around 10-35% of the day’s calories you are ingesting should be in the form of protein.

Why Do We Need Protein?

There are numerous functions of the body that require protein. Some of the reasons as to why protein is needed are discussed below:

1. Provide Structural Support

Each and every cell in the body contains protein. Proteins form the foundation for bone, skin, muscle, ligament and tendon structure. Our body makes new proteins to replace those damaged or dead cells so as to maintain normal cell maintenance and growth. For instance, the typical life span of skin cells is 30 days. As these cells die, new cells with protein as the primary component grow underneath to replace the dead cells. The cells grow in a similar manner in hair, muscles and fingernails.

2. Act as Transporters

Proteins are major transporters of minerals, lipids, vitamins and oxygen to and from in the body. For instance, the blood protein, hemoglobin, transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. Proteins are found in cell membranes that act as pumps and allow movement of substances across cell membranes, a process essential for muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

3. Maintain Blood Fluid Balance

The composition and balance of the fluid is maintained in the body by blood proteins. Proteins that have the quality to attract fluids are present in the blood capillaries. Water is pulled into the capillaries by these proteins, thereby preventing excessive retention of fluid in the body tissues.

Proteins help maintain optimal acid-base balance in the blood by acting as buffers in the blood. The normal pH of human blood is around 7.4. If blood becomes acidic, proteins help by removing hydrogen ions and if blood becomes alkaline, proteins help by releasing hydrogen ions.

4. Optimize Immune Response

Why do we need protein? One of the most important reasons is to strengthen our immune system. Proteins referred to as antibodies are released when the human body is exposed to a foreign material such as a virus or bacterium. Antibodies attach to the foreign material and neutralize it, thereby preventing it from producing an infection or disease.

5. Provide Energy

Proteins provide approximately 4 calories per gram, thereby serving as an important source of energy of the body. However, proteins are not a primary source of energy as the body first converts carbohydrates and fat present in diet into energy.

6. Help Babies Grow

Protein is a major nutrient that is required during the growth of the body. For instance, protein requirement is enhanced in developing babies and newborn animals. For this reason, a high amount of protein is present in the mother’s milk. The needs of protein are highest during the times when growth is the fastest. For example, the protein content is highest during the initial stages of growth so as to allow baby’s rapid development.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

After answering the question "Why do we need protein?" let's discuss the amount of protein that is required in diet. A moderate amount of protein is needed for the body to function normally. It is a myth that extra strength is obtained by eating extra amount of protein in diet. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has suggested the following:

  • For active men and teenage boys, the requirement of daily protein is met by 3 daily servings of a total of 7 ounces of protein;
  • For most men, active women, teenage girls and children older than 6 years, it is recommended to take 2 daily servings of protein for a total of 6 ounces;
  • For most women, some elderly and children aged 2 to 6 years, it is recommended to take 2 daily servings of protein for a total of 5 ounces.

How to Get Enough Protein from Your Diet?

Why do we need protein? Because it helps build our body! Where to get protein? The following is a list of some foods that are high in protein:

  1. Egg is a rich source of protein with 6 g of protein present in 1 large egg. They are rich in essential amino acids, thereby having a high biological value (a measure of essential amino acids) than most foods.
  2. Milk is yet another rich source of protein with a high biological value. The amount of protein in a 1 cup serving of 2% milk is about 8 g. It is recommended to prefer milk with 2% fat instead of skimmed milk as the extra fat helps in absorbing the fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin D.
  3. Soy milk is a rich source of protein with 8 g of protein present in 1 cup serving. It is perfect as a source of protein for people who have lactose intolerance. It is recommended to go for unsweetened and organic soy milk to avoid excessive sugar and genetically modified foods respectively.
  4. Steak (Bottom or top round): These lean cuts of steak are an important source of protein and each 1 g or protein comes with 7 calories.
  5. Chicken breasts (skinless and boneless): A staple of bodybuilders, chicken breasts are a rich source of protein providing more protein than any other poultry. Hence, they should constantly be on your grocery shopping list. Every 3 oz. serving of chicken breast contains 24 g or protein.
  6. Almonds, a popular tree nut type, are a rich source of protein with 6 g of protein present in 1 ounce of serving. Apart from proteins, they are also a rich source of vitamin E, fiber, magnesium and manganese.
  7. Oats, one of the healthiest grains are a rich source of protein with 13 g of protein present in ½ a cup of raw oats. They are also a rich source of magnesium, fiber, thiamin and manganese.
  8. Broccoli is high in proteins in comparison to most of the vegetables with 3 g of proteins present in 1 cup of chopped broccoli.
  9. Cottage cheese is very low in calories and fat is a rich source of proteins. A cup of cottage cheese (226 g) contains around 27 g of proteins.
  10. Black bean pasta is a rich source of protein with 25 g of protein present in 2 ounce serving. It is also low in carbohydrates and calories.
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