The Role of Protein in the Body

This week Tammy Kacev from Tammy Nutrition shares her expertise on the role of protein in the body.

Protein is an important component of every cell found in our bodies. Everything, from our hair to our nails, is made up mostly of protein. Not only are our entire bodies made up of protein, but our bodies use protein. We use protein to build and repair tissues, to make our enzymes and hormones, to build our bones, and to create lean muscle.

The Role of Protein in the Body

Protein is a nutrient that performs many functions in the body. Consuming enough dietary protein intake is important for:

  • Proper function and regulation of body processes
  • Proper function and regulation of chemical functions
  • Creating antibodies
  • Building body tissue
  • Maintaining body tissue and
  • Repairing body tissues

Most of us are aware that like carbohydrates and fats, proteins are also “macronutrients.” Being a macronutrient, this means that our bodies need large amounts of it, compared to vitamins and nutrients, which are rather referred to as “micronutrients”, and are rather only needed in small amounts.

Although proteins are grouped as macronutrients like carbohydrates and fats, our bodies do not break down and store amino acids like it does carbohydrates and fats. Our bodies need daily consumption and supply of amino acids to therefore make new proteins and we can get this through our bodily function and the process of making amino acids and through diet to replace the proteins in our bodies.

When it comes to food preferences, of course we all have different tastes with individual likes and dislikes. When it comes to protein, I believe variety is essential as different protein sources will also offer other important nutrients as well. Certain fish’s are rich in omega-3s, legumes give us much needed fibre and red meats offer great amounts of iron too. With any food group and food choices, I suggest looking for options that are nutrient-rich and low in saturated and trans-saturated fats.

The Best Protein Sources Include:

  • Lean meats; which include chicken, fish and red meat
  • Soy products; which includes tofu
  • Dairy foods; which includes milk, cheese and yoghurt and
  • Other sources; which includes eggs, nuts and seeds.

Recommended Dietary Intake

The minimum daily recommendation for the average healthy adult is approximately 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. This recommendation supports the various roles that protein has in our bodies. Different life stages and circumstances will change this recommendation. Older adults for example, who have slower rates of muscle repair and who have an increased need for protein building, have a higher recommendation. Older adults need closer to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Kids on the other hand, needs less protein. Kids need approximately 1 gram protein per kg. These recommendations equates to a minimum recommendation of 46grams of protein for adult woman and 56grams of protein for adult men. The average kid therefore needs approximately 18 grams protein per day.

Conclusion

Protein plays many important roles in the functioning of our bodies. Protein is part of every cell, tissue and organ. Our bodies can make its own protein, but we also need to get it from the foods we eat. Being a macronutrient, we need large amounts of it, but at different life stages we have different protein requirements. When it comes to dietary choices, it is important to consume high quality proteins with variety. Consuming enough protein will optimise our health, improve the functioning of our bodies, and help us build and maintain lean muscle.