Nowadays , everyone is a fitness guru, and can give diet knowledge on any health issues or diet issues. The most interesting thing is the food items are categorised as good food and bad food by them. In recent years, food has been graded and advertised as such. Protein is the superstar. Carbohydrate and Fat are the villain . Vitamin and mineral are in the supporting role. Antioxidants in the leading role. The best part is that one food item gets into the special appearance category. Tried by all the fitness freaks and health freaks. This year it's the green coffee; hyped by the media and these health gurus . Last year it was apple cider vinegar. The trend goes for a year and then gradually forgotten.
But I am talking about the superstar, the PROTEIN.
What is Protein?
The word protein is derived from the Greek word 'protos ' meaning first. It is the basic chemical unit of living organisms.
They are the most important constituent of food.
What does Protein do?
- Build and maintain muscles, tendons , blood , skin , nails .
- Help to form secretions from glands , ductless glands, hormones, enzymes, digestive juices.
- Help in forming antibodies to build resistance to diseases.
- Supplies energy to the body when the body is deprived of Carbs and fats. So Carbs and fats are necessary for the body so the protein is spared for its own function.
But what actually is Protein?
They are nitrogenous compounds containing nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Protein contains nitrogen but the nutritive value of protein rich foods does not depend upon the total nitrogen content but on the constituent amino acids. Gelatin is rich in nitrogen but does not contain all the essential amino acids and so is of little nutritive value.
Made up of a large number of amino acids. There are about 21 amino acids in protein of which 8 are essential, 2 are semi essential . The rest can be synthesised by the body.
During the process of digestion, proteins are broken down to amino acids by the gastric, intestinal , pancreatic juices and enzymes.
The tissues and organs select the amino acids they need for building, sustaining and repairing their own structure.
How much Protein is needed?
Earlier it was assumed that we need 1gm per kg of body weight but then the expert researchers calculated the requirements and stated that an adult person needs 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight. We do not need a high protein diet as advertised.
So what are the facts related to Proteins ?
We will not talk about the myths.
- We do not need a high protein diet as stated earlier. If a person is of 5'8``height the sufficient amount of protein required is 55 grams to 60 gms .
- The quantity of protein is not important. The quality of protein is important. The food should contain all the essential amino acids.
- Infants and children need 1.2 g per kg body weight of protein.
- Animal protein is the same as vegetarian protein because all the protein in the diet is broken down to amino acids and supplied to the tissues and muscle.
- Physical and mental efficiency don't increase with more intake of protein. So it's a waste to have a high protein diet.
- The athletes after building up their musculature and being accustomed to physical activity do not require extra protein. So eating extra protein is a waste. It is a body building food and should not be misused to supply energy.
- Vegetarian proteins are not deficient in essential amino acids. They limit in one or more amino acids but if the diet is adequate in cereals, pulses , legumes and leafy vegetables the protein requirement with all the essential amino acids can be easily provided.
- The cereal bran and germ are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals so we should not use refined cereals. Leafy vegetables are rich source of essential amino acids. But they should be combined with other food.
- Younger children and infants should be given milk because they cannot consume cereals and leafy vegetables.
- The protein content of pulses are almost the same . Soyabean is exceptional , it contains almost double the amount of protein per 100 gms that is 43.2 g . Pulses contain about 24 g per 100 gms.
- Food should supply not only the quota of essential amino acids but also the non essential amino acids for optimal results.
- The mere administration of protein rich food does not mean that the proteins are adequately digested and utilized. The unused amino acids are not stored but deaminated and metabolized within a few hours.
- The protein requirement is closely linked with energy intake. If the energy supplied by carbohydrate and fats are adequate, the protein is utilised for its own work.
So to be fit and healthy stop counting the number of egg whites but have a well balanced diet . Enjoy your food.
"Nature, in her own wisdom, has never created a food which is entirely protein, starch or sugar."