Proteins are vital nutrients for the growth and sustenance of our bodies. Proteins not only assist in the growth process, but also can substitute as an instant source of energy when carbohydrates and fats are absent or insufficient in the body. It is important to note here that the body needs to break up the proteins from food into different and simpler compounds called peptides that further dissolve into amino acids. It is only after these amino acids reach the cells that the cells can build proteins.
In other words, a protein is a type of organic compound, which consists of a linear chain of amino acids kept together by peptide links. These peptide bonds connect on one side the carboxyl and on the other the amino groups of residues of amino acids. There could be more than 500 amino acids in one single protein and each would have its own unique sequence, which is predetermined by the genetic code carried in the genes of the body. Our body comprises of 20 regular amino acids. Out of these 20 amino acids, the human body is able to produce a total of 12 and the rest has to be procured from our diet.
The amino acids produced within our body are also called non-essential amino acids or indispensable amino acids (IAA), while those that we have to acquire are known as essential amino acids. If anything happens and even one of the IAAs are missing, the body’s functions would be impacted negatively. The eight essential amino acids are lysine, Tryptophan, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, isoleucine, leucine and valine. The histidine is counted as an essential amino acid in the case of children.
Proteins are vital elements of every living organism and they take an active part in the majority of processes that happen within a cell. Proteins often combine together into stable complexes to perform certain given functions. Some of these proteins are enzymes, hormones and even antibodies which accelerate bio-chemical reactions in the body to promote metabolism and other functions.
The meaning of the term protein comes from the Greek language, where "prota" means "primary importance."
What Is The Role Of Proteins In Our Body
A protein’s basic role in our body is to build and repair body tissues. The enzymes, which are also proteins, are vital to the metabolism in our bodies. Almost every vital function in the body is dependent upon one or another protein. A number of hormones are proteins as well, as well as antibodies. It is worthwhile to note that proteins can be converted into fat when there is an inadequate carbohydrate or fat intake.
Somebody suffering from a protein deficiency would be highly susceptible to infections, complain of general weakness, develops muscle atrophy, and edema of the tissues.
Where Are Proteins Found
One could safely state that there is no food that does not contain some type of protein. The egg protein is considered to be the highest quality and hence all others are judged by its comparison. In this context, animal proteins (such as cheese, milk, meat) are considered to be of a higher quality than the plant proteins because invariably they would lack some essential amino acids.
Vegetarians would need to combine the sources of plant proteins, such as pulses and grains, to make up for this problem. Out of the plant protein, soy is considered to be a high quality protein. This is why vegetarians need to have a good mix of foods such as nuts, grains, pulses, vegetables, soy milk, etc.
A great thing is that one does not need to have all of the essential amino acids within one meal. The intake can be spread over the course of the day, since the body is able to preserve and recall the missing essential amino acids from its reserve stores.