Proteins are a fundamental nutrient for growth, as they form muscle tissue. The proteins are assimilated by our organism in the form of amino acids, which bind together to form proteins.
The ideal protein intake is achieved by consuming cereals and pulses, mixed with milk and eggs. This avoids excessive intake of lipids and carbohydrates, which can lead to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.
What is the function of proteins? The main function of proteins is to provide the support and structure of the different organs of our organism (muscles, tendons, skin); in other words, proteins are the “building blocks” of our organs.
Proteins are large molecules that are made up of other smaller elements called amino acids.
How many different amino acids are there?
The proteins are made up of twenty different amino acids, which bind strongly, preventing the protein from being destroyed. Amino acid bonds are subject to enormous variability, because numerous combinations can be established; this explains why there are different proteins.
Proteins have a more complex chemical structure than carbohydrates and lipids. In general terms, each protein is made up of 100-200 amino acids.
What foods are high in protein?
These nutrients appear in both plant and animal foods. Animal proteins are found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
Proteins of plant origin are particularly abundant in nuts, pulses and cereals.
There are a series of amino acids, called essential amino acids, in number of nine, which are essential for life and cannot be synthesized by our body. These amino acids are found in very low proportions in plant products. This is one of the reasons why a strict vegetarian diet can lead to dietary deficiencies.
On the other hand, some foods, such as milk and dairy products, contain almost all of the essential amino acids.
How much protein do we need to meet our daily needs?
The amount of protein a person needs daily depends on several factors: age, kidney and liver function, the type of protein consumed, activity.
Currently, nutrition experts recommend 40-60 g of protein per day or 0.8 g of protein equivalent per kilogram of weight.
It should be borne in mind that there are certain situations, such as breastfeeding and growth, in which protein intake needs to be increased.
On the other hand, the daily intake of protein should not exceed 15 percent of the total caloric intake of the diet.
Which proteins are better: those of animal or vegetable origin?
The biological value of animal proteins is higher than vegetable proteins.
On the other hand, animal proteins are usually accompanied by a greater amount of fats and wastes from the animal’s cellular metabolism; likewise, the bonds between their amino acids are more complex and therefore more difficult to digest.