The Importance of Protein

January 31, 2013
The House of Healing

The Importance of Protein…


When you think of structural proteins in your body think of  hair, skin, muscles, brain and internal organs and you will start to realise the importance of protein in the diet.  A normal lean adult body is 12-18% protein.  Proteins are much more complex in structure than carbohydrates and lipids.  Proteins are essential components of the body, required for structure and function; they are involved in virtually all cell functions.  They function as enzymes, hormones and antibodies and are involved in storage and transport.    Understanding the importance of these processes in the body makes you appreciate the necessity of a quality protein intake in the diet.

Thinking a little more you will realise that the continual process of synthesis and breakdown of protein in the body affects your organ protein mass, body size and ultimately the body’s protein and ultimately your amino acid requirements.  Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  Amino acids are the central units in protein metabolism which are incorporated into various proteins and converted into essential metabolic compounds.  There are 22 amino acids that occur in nature and of these 20 are incorporated into proteins and other molecules within the cells and tissues of plants and animals.  12 are of these amino acids are known as non essential amino acids that can be synthesised by the human body and the remaining 8 are essential amino acids to the human body which must be obtained from foods.


The 8 essential amino acids you should be aware of that must be obtained from food are:

Isoleucine                    Leucine

Lysine                         Methionine

Phenylalanine              Threonine

Tryptophan                  Valine


Understanding the quality of protein sources in your diet is important.  The nutritional quality of food proteins varies and depends on the essential amino acid composition.  Complete protein foods are those which contain essential amino acid composition at levels which facilitate tissue growth and repair.  The good news is it is not necessary to consume all of the essential amino acids at every meal.  Your body stores amino acids and uses them when they are needed.  Combining protein from a variety of sources is a great way to ensure that you get all the essential protein requirements your body needs.  


A few points to consider…
Many recent studies demonstrate that an increased protein content in the diet alongside regular exercise may improve weight loss and reduce the loss of lean body mass in overweight and obese individuals.    Foods high in protein take longer to break down, moving slowly through the digestive system.  This gives a high satiety, creating a full sensation for longer periods.  Protein has a gradual effect on blood sugar, eliminating quick spikes in these levels.   But before simply increasing protein in your diet there are a few do’s and don’t to consider…


Do consider your nutritional needs.  Protein is not all you need.  Be sure that you maintain a well balanced diet without cutting out food groups.  Simply eating protein could do you harm.  Those who can’t process excess protein effectively may be at higher risk of kidney and liver disorders.  So if you have any problems with these organs always consult your health care professional first.

get enough fibre from fruits and vegetables.  Many high protein diets cut out valuable fibre leaving dieters constipated.  Fibre is essential to keep things in working order, be sure to get your daily fibre requirements and drink plenty of water.

Don’t cut out valuable carbohydrates.  Remember that your body still needs carbohydrates for energy to exercise and burn fat.  Cutting carbohydrates altogether  may rob you of vital energy and leave you feeling exhausted.


Do include regular exercise.  Don’t be fooled by fad diets that promise you can shed the kilos without working up a sweat.  Exercise can be life-changing and combined with a balanced diet and a quality protein intake you will be amazed at the results!


Do understand your protein needs.  The need for protein in your diet is very individual depending on a number of different factors.  Your activity level and your weight as well your goals of increasing your daily exercise should provide clues.  These are all important in figuring out your individual protein requirements.


Don’t overdo it.  Excess protein consumption doesn’t mean that it all ends up as muscle.  Over eating protein can still be stored in the body as fat. 

Do talk to us about your goals!  Before considering a high-protein diet you should consult your health care professional.  Some high protein diets restrict a variety of foods that provide essential nutrients and may pose other potential health risks.  Eating foods containing protein along with carbohydrates provides fuel and muscle growth potential for weight reduction.   If you wish to achieve a healthy long-term weight loss, talk to us about your goals.

If you’re stuck on where to start with quality protein, consider these valuable sources:


Grass-fed Beef, Organic Chicken, Wild Salmon, Tuna, Tempeh, Quinoa, Nuts, Seeds, Goats Cheese and the Egg-cellent Egg!

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