Role of proteins in diet

Proteins are the essential building blocks of the body. They are compounds constituted by carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The smallest unit of protein is termed as amino acids. It is based on how the strands of amino acids are arranged that their particular body functions get defined.

Our body requires protein for healthy hair, skin and nails. It is also essential for the proper functioning of muscle tissues, the inner bone structures and red blood cells. Our body requires protein for carrying out certain essential functions smoothly. Such functions of protein include fighting illness and diseases, repairing body tissues, producing enzymes,  transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, producing hormones, building  new cells, maintaining fluid balance etc. It is the presence or absence of essential amino acids that determines the quality of protein. Essential amino acids should reach the body through diet since the body is incapable of producing them.

Animal proteins are abundant sources of high-quality proteins, as they contain all the essential amino acids needed for the proper functioning of the body in required quantities. Moreover, these proteins get absorbed easily by the body. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and cheese are such complete protein sources. Incomplete proteins are those protein varieties that lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Sources of such incomplete protein include grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Though considered to be incomplete protein sources, they are abundantly rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber and should be essentially included in diet.

Common sources of other high-quality proteins for non-vegetarians include tuna canned in water, turkey breast, baked salmon, roasted chicken breast, peanut butter, yogurt, broiled halibut, beef steak, and cheddar cheese. Vegetarians should particularly ensure that their body is supplied with enough protein.  Strict vegetarians can depend on tofu, nuts, seeds, lentils and soy foods in order to meet their bodies’ protein needs.

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