Proteins are considered as the building blocks of life, and all the cells in our bodies contain proteins which help them carry out the necessary functions. This is why it’s vital to include protein rich foods in our diet.
Protein helps in repairing cells and make new ones in the body. Also, the enzymes, hormones and many other chemicals in the body which perform a broad range of vital life functions are comprised of proteins.
Just like fats and carbohydrates, proteins are regarded as the macronutrients, which implies that we need proteins in large amounts to stay healthy. But, unlike the carbs and fats, proteins are not stored in our body and that’s why there is no place from where these can be extracted when our body is running low on proteins.
Since proteins are not stored in the body, these are required on a regular basis and hence, you need to include the right amount of foods rich in protein in your diet every day to satisfy our daily need.
To provide our body the apt amount of proteins, you can either choose the natural sources of proteins or can indulge with the protein supplements like whey protein etc.
Functions Performed By Protein In Our Body
Proteins perform an array of vital functions in our body. Almost every function performed by our cells, organs and the body is highly controlled by the proteins. The major functions performed by these macro nutrients include:
- Proteins are a part of our DNA, and these combine with the nucleic acids to form the nucleoproteins and reside in the nucleus of all the cells that we have in our body. These can create the new cells and help in repairing the damaged ones.
- Proteins are responsible for ensuring that our enzymes perform their tasks efficiently like breaking down of the food, regulating the nutrients entry through the cell walls, and the removal of the waste substances from the body.
- Protein is the main building block of muscles, and the main proteins present in the muscle fibers include elastin and myoglobin.
- Protein is majorly responsible for the formation of bones and muscles.
- Protein can be found in blood in the form of hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying throughout the body.
- Protein facilitates speedy recovery after exercise and helps in reducing the muscle loss
- Proteins help in the formation of the antibodies which are present in our blood to fight infections and attack viruses.
- Protein is also a vital part of the hormones which are responsible for regulating metabolism and sending chemical messages to the nerve cells.
- Proteins play a very important role in regulating metabolism because all the enzymes, which trigger the chemical reactions for the breakdown of the food are proteins. In the absence of proteins, our body will not be able to perform metabolism.
- The keratin which forms our nails and hair is also a protein.
Composition of Proteins
Proteins are comprised of amino acids, which are present in long chains, and these chains are strung together by the chemical bonds. There are up to 50,000 different types of proteins in our body.
These different types are characterized by the size of the amino acid chains. For instance, insulin is one of the proteins whose chain is just 51 amino acids long, whereas there are some types of proteins whose chain is up to 400 amino acids long.
Amino acids are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, and are the primary molecules which provide our body the required nitrogen. There are three types of amino acids:
Essential Amino Acids
These cannot be made inside the body and thus, must be supplied through the food and should not be eaten just with one meal. One should eat essential amino acids rich food throughout the day to ensure consistent supply to the body.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
These are formed by the body during the normal breakdown of proteins during digestion or can be made from the essential amino acids.
Conditional Amino Acids
These are required only occasionally, like during illnesses to recover the body or to cope up with stress.
What Happens When We Eat Proteins?
When we eat proteins, they are broken down into smaller amino acids by the digestive enzymes (which also are proteins). The “very small chains” of amino acid are called peptides.
The broken amino acids and peptides are absorbed into our bloodstream and are delivered safely to the different parts of the body and the organs which need them. These are also used by cells to release energy or to form the other proteins.
When being transferred to the different body parts, most of the proteins are first delivered to the liver, which makes the new proteins from these amino acids and peptides, and uses the extra proteins to fuel up the metabolism.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
Depending on our body weight, our protein requirement varies. Also, the protein requirement of men is higher than that of the women.
We need 0.5 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of our body weight. This implies that a person with 50 Kg weight would need between 25 – 75 grams of protein.
If you live a regular life and don’t indulge in strenuous physical activities, you would need 0.5 – 0.8 grams proteins per kilogram of your weight, but, if you indulge in high-intensity physical training or are an athlete who practices or several hours day, your requirement would vary from 1 – 1.5 grams of protein.
Sources of Protein-Rich Foods
Here are the top dietary sources of proteins which you can eat to get to satisfy your daily protein requirement.
Most of us believe that milk is a good source of calcium, but it is also a rich protein source as well.
250 – 300 ml of whole milk can give you 8 grams of protein and gives you high-quality protein. Milk actually contains a small amount of every nutrient needed to keep our body healthy, and it is specifically high in Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), phosphorous and calcium.
2. Cottage Cheese
Also known as paneer, cottage cheese is an excellent dairy based source of protein. While the other types of cheese are also rich in protein like Parmesan cheese, swiss cheese, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, but, they are also high in calories as well as fat.
Cottage cheese is relatively low in fat and calories content and is loaded with an array of important nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, selenium, phosphorous and calcium.
100 grams of cottage cheese can provide up to 12 grams of protein and has about 1% of fat. Also, you can get 95 calories from it.
3. Chicken Breast
The chicken breast is one of the best sources of protein. If you eat the chicken breast without skin, it can be a great source of protein with low calories.
100 grams of chicken breast can provide approx. 30 grams of protein and 1 roasted chicken breast without skin can provide approx. 50 – 55 grams of protein with just 280 – 290 calories.
However, ensure that you don’t put a lot of oil while cooking to avoid the extra calories.
4. Turkey Breast
Like chicken breast, turkey breast is also a very good source of protein and is very delicious as well.
It offers very little calories and fat and is mostly comprised of protein, which is why you can have it in the dinner.
From 100 grams serving of turkey breast, you can drive 30 – 32 grams of protein with just 160 calories.
Eggs are among the best food which contains a lot of nutrients including high concentrations of protein.
Egg yolk contains healthy fats, whole eggs are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals and brain boosting nutrients.
While you can eat the entire egg if you are seeking wholesome nutrition, but, if you want only proteins from the egg, then you should only eat the white portion without the yellow yolk.
One egg can provide up to 6 grams of protein with only 78 calories.
If you are looking for plant based protein and want to avoid the non-vegetarian sources, then all you need to add to your diet is the broccoli, which is not only a great source of protein but is also rich in many antioxidants capable of protecting you from many types of cancers.
The other nutrients that broccoli can provide include Vitamin B12 and bioavailable iron. Broccoli is already a low-calorie food, and one cup of broccoli can provide up to 3 grams of protein.
Though, you can eat cooked broccoli and add it to your salads, but, if you want to consume large amounts of broccoli to gain the proteins, you can also have its juice. You can easily consume a 4-5 cup of broccoli through juice, but, it will keep you devoid of the high fiber content of broccoli.
7. Brussels Sprouts
One of the best vegetables you can eat to get high-quality proteins are brussels sprouts. Apart from protein, Brussel Sprouts are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and many vital minerals.
A half cup of Brussel Sprouts provides 2 grams of fiber with just 28 calories.
Quite popular in the Indian food menu, the lentils are an amazing source of vegetarian protein.
The lentils, which are a type of legumes are an excellent source of proteins. One cup of boiled lentils can give you as much as 18 grams of protein.
Apart from proteins, these are also an amazing source of manganese, copper, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
The orange colored lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans and soybeans, all are very good source of this macronutrient.
Fish is one of the best sources of animal proteins. Apart from proteins, it offers heart friendly omega-3 fatty acids.
While all types of fish are rich in protein, but, salmon is an exceptionally good source of this macronutrient. 46% the salmon is comprised of proteins, which implies, if you eat 100 grams of salmon, you will get approx. 20 – 23 grams of protein.
Another sea food that can give you an astounding serving of protein is tuna. It is one of the most popular and nutritious fish which is low in calories and fat content.
It is also an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids like other fish.
A one cup serving of tuna, that is about 150 grams can provide 33 – 34 grams of protein. If you are trying to lose weight, you certainly need to add tuna to your diet.
Again, a sea food which is an excellent source of protein. Shrimps not only provide protein but are also a rich source of selenium, which is one of the rarest minerals you can find in the dietary sources.
An 80 – 100 grams serving of shrimps can provide up to 18 – 22 grams of protein, but ensure that you cook the shrimps with minimal oil to keep their calorie count under control.
12. Lean Beef
Among the animal based sources of protein, lean beef is an imperative one. It also provides bioavailable iron apart from B12.
A 100 grams serving of lean beef can provide up to 25 grams of protein with just 185 calories. However, it’s important to use a good cooking method so that the nutrients stay intact in the beef and extra calories don’t get added.
Almonds are known for their high Vitamin E and protein concentration. Apart from these, almonds are also a good source of fiber, magnesium, and manganese.
A 30 grams of a serving of almonds provides 6 grams of this vital macronutrient with 161 calories.
Another nut which is highly rich in proteins is a peanut. Though it’s very surprising, peanuts have an array of health benefits including high concentrations of proteins.
Peanuts are also a good source of magnesium and fiber and even support weight loss.
In 30 grams of peanuts, you can have 7.5 grams of protein. But, ensure that the peanuts you are eating are not fried.
One of the healthiest grains, the oats are a good source of protein apart from being an excellent source of fiber. Loaded with a lot of vital nutrients like Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), manganese and magnesium, these can provide a lot of health benefits.
You can gain up to 13 grams of protein from half a cup of raw oats. As these are an incredible source of fiber, healthy calories and protein, you can start your day with a bowl of oats.
Another grain that can provide an immense amount of protein like oats is quinoa. It is an exceptionally good source of fiber and provides a lot of minerals and vitamins as well.
Quinoa is considered a heart friendly food like oats and is quite low in calories. About 200 grams of cooked quinoa can facilitate 10 grams of protein with just 230 calories.
Bananas are one of the best fruits which are good sources of protein. A 100-gram banana can provide 4 grams of protein with many other benefits.
You can have them in the morning with your breakfast or can have a banana milkshake to get the combined proteins from milk and bananas.
18. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts possess high concentrations of proteins and in fact, these have the highest amount of proteins in the nut family.
One ounce of protein can fulfill the complete protein requirement of a person, but, one should not eat more than 2 – 3 Brazil nuts per day. Over eating these nuts can be dangerous due to serious side effects.
Brazil nuts are also an incredible source of selenium, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The aforementioned natural sources are the high protein foods which can help you derive enough protein while helping you stay fit.
How To Add Proteins In Your Diet?
But, if you are wondering that how to add protein in your diet, then it’s very simple. First of all, ensure that all your diets like breakfast, lunch, and dinner have one or more sources of protein.
Also, you can keep the high protein foods for consumption either after the workout or at night because eating more carbohydrates or fats in the evening is not a good idea, so, you can have a high protein rich dinner.
If you indulge in strenuous workouts or hit the gym to perform high-intensity training, you can replenish your body with nutrients after the workout by having a protein shake or smoothie made with protein supplements. Whey proteins are best to take after a workout because they get absorbed in our body and blood stream much faster than other protein supplements.