The Importance of Protein in our Diet

Proteins are the basic building block of all cells in our body.
Their importance is based on the fact that they serve vital functions such as the creation of enzymes, antibodies and most hormones. Our hair, muscles, tendons and nails are basically made of protein.
After water, the largest percentage of our weight is made up of protein.
Proteins are made up of amino acids and differ from each other depending on the combination of amino acids involved in their composition.
There are 20 amino acids and the human body is able to synthesize some of them, while others must be obtained exclusively from the diet. For this reason, they are divided into essential amino acids (those we get from food) and non-essential amino acids (those
makes up our body).
The essential amino acids are: Valine, threonine, isoleucine, histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalanine.

Let's look at the functions of essential amino acids below and why it's important to make sure we get them on a daily basis.

  • Valine : Helps in the development of muscle mass, good sleep, transports nitrogen to the rest of the tissues, has an anxiolytic effect, significantly enhances brain functions.

Food sources: dairy products, buckwheat, oats, pistachios, quinoa, pine nuts, cashews, fava beans, chickpeas, fish, meat, lentils, mushrooms, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, soy products, sesame.

  • Threonine : Plays an important role in the creation of collagen and elastin, strengthens the immune system, fat metabolism, helps blood clotting, enzyme production.

Food sources: Spirulina, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat, soy products, walnuts, almonds, goat's milk, sheep's milk, sesame, chickpeas, spinach.

  • Isoleucine : Contributes to good blood circulation, tissue reconstruction after a trauma, muscle tissue development, glucose release when needed, fat synthesis.

Food sources: Aduki beans, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, peas, Brazil nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, fish.

  • Histidine: Involved in the production of hemoglobin, ferritin, maintaining blood ph, nerve myelin, is necessary for the production of red and white blood cells, protects the body from ultraviolet radiation.

Food sources: rye, rice, wheat and wheat germ, eggs, meat, tofu, hemp seeds, chickpeas, almonds, chia seeds.

  • Leucine : stimulates the secretion of insulin, helps the secretion of growth hormone, increases the good HDL cholesterol, along with valine and isoleucine, it is classified as a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) that supplies muscles with energy during exercise.

Food sources: Seaweed, quinoa, soy, oats, fish, corn, dairy products, peas, legumes, flaxseed, nuts, rye.

  • Lysine : Its presence is necessary for the creation of almost all proteins, enzymes, antibodies and some hormones, maintains the nitrogen balance, plays an active role in the synthesis of collagen and is recommended to limit herpes.

Food sources: Eggs, dairy products, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, potatoes, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, eggplants, hemp seeds, chia seeds.

  • Methionine: Necessary for healthy and strong hair, contributes to the elimination of heavy metals from the body, enhances the absorption of selenium and zinc, exerts a lipotropic effect on the liver, reduces cholesterol.

Food sources: Oats, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, spinach, chickpeas, quinoa, rice, peas, black beans, sesame seeds.

  • Tryptophan: Actively participates in the production of melatonin and serotonin, reduces anxiety levels and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, enhances good memory.

Food sources: Chocolate, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, milk, cheese, egg white, sesame, peanuts, legumes, fish, meat, brown rice.

  • Phenylalanine : Enhances acuity, joint health, increases libido, transports messages to and from the brain, enhances good memory.

Food sources: dairy products, barley, rye, avocado, banana, corn, almonds, walnuts, legumes, sesame, oats, seaweed, fish, meat.

From the above reference to essential amino acids, we see how important it is to consume the ideal amount of protein every day, in order to get the amino acids we need. This is achieved by having variety in our diet, as well as introducing additional protein bars, fortified breakfast cereals or plant-based pure protein powders.
The organic proteins of vegetable origin from brown rice, soy, hemp, pumpkin, and whey are of high biological value because they provide us with all the necessary amino acids in the ideal ratio.
In recent years, with the increase in vegetarian and completely plant-based diets (vegan), additional consumption of protein has increased significantly, since in this way the adequate consumption of protein is additionally covered, when this is deemed necessary.

* The text is purely informative and in no case replaces the doctor's opinion.

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