Role of Protein in Good Nutrition
Protein is an essential nutrient whose name comes from the Greek word "protos," which means
"first." To visualize a molecule of protein, think of a very long chain with links. These
links represent amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which are essential for cell
regulation, growth, and repair.
The body uses protein to build new cells, maintain tissues
and regulate cell function.
About half of the protein consumed daily is converted into
enzymes, the specialized "worker proteins" that regulate the speed of biological reactions
in your body and permit it to perform functions such as digesting food and assembling or
dividing molecules to make new cells and chemical substances.
To perform these functions, enzymes often need specific
vitamins and minerals.
To make all the proteins that the body needs, 22 different
amino acids are required. Nine are considered to be essential, meaning they are not
synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. Our bodies can produce the other
13 from fats, carbohydrates, and other amino acids. So, these are referred to as non-essential
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, legumes, and soy
It is possible to consume too much protein. The amount of protein needed for good health varies.
An average healthy adult man or woman needs about 0.8 grams
of protein per every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.
As you grow older, new proteins are synthesized less
efficiently, and muscle mass (protein tissue) diminishes while fat content stays the
same or rises. This is why muscle seems to "turn to fat" in old age.
Infants, adolescents, pregnant women, individuals with
injuries, and athletes may often require more protein on a daily basis.
Check with your local market for the recommended daily intake of protein.
Several medical conditions make it difficult for people to digest and process proteins
properly. As a result, waste products build up in different parts of the body. Check with
your physician for individual safety concerns you may have.