Proteins are large molecules, composed of long strings of amino acids that perform various roles in the body. They make up approximately 20% of the total body mass, and they can be found in hair, bones, skin, muscles, nails, and connective tissues. Many crucial processes in the human body depend on proteins, and they’re instrumental in building new cells and maintaining existing tissues. In other words, they help in cell renewal and tissue repair. The human body wouldn’t be able to perform some of the most basic functions without proteins, so it’s essential to take them on a daily basis. Here’s an overview of what proteins do for the body and their benefits.
They boost the immunity
One of the most important roles of proteins is to protect the human body from various viruses and bacteria. Namely, when the immune system identifies these foreign bodies, it reacts by sending antibodies, which are basically a type of protein. Antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins, find and destroy the virus or bacterium, and prevent their multiplication. They’re the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens, which is why it’s crucial to strengthen the immune system. This can be done by eating high-protein foods which will help the body initiate new protein synthesis, the process necessary for the functioning of the immune system.
They build muscle
So-called structural proteins are integral parts of every cell in the human body. As their name suggests, they provide cells with internal architectural support. Apart from the cellular level, the importance of structural proteins is to support the human body on the whole. Without them, it would be impossible to stand or move. Collagen is an example of a structural protein and it ensures the elasticity and regeneration of the skin, joints, bones, and cartilage.
It stands to reason that eating protein is fundamental for muscle growth, and numerous studies show that people whose diet is rich in high-quality proteins have more lean muscle mass. Hitting the gym is a must if you want to increase your strength, but only when it’s paired with an adequate, protein-rich diet. For achieving the best results, make sure that the various kinds of proteins are on your plate, such as:
- Eggs. Start your day with a delicious omelet. However, you should be aware that eggs can lead to increased cholesterol levels, so the American Heart Association recommends no more than 4 eggs a week.
- Fish and seafood. These excellent sources of protein are also low in fat. Besides that, salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the heart.
- Pork. This meat is rich in leucine, a branched-chain amino acid, which helps muscle recovery after a workout.
- Dairy. Yogurt, cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, or chocolate and milk are recommended not only because they’re full of proteins, but also because they contain high levels of calcium, necessary for healthy bones.
- Soy. Dairy intolerant people can opt for this protein source, which is also good for preventing heart disease.
- Mixed nuts. These healthy snacks are great for the overall health as they contain unsaturated fats. Still, sometimes they can be high in sodium, so opt for unsalted versions.
- Chicken and turkey breast. These lean meats are extremely popular with bodybuilders as they have the highest amount of protein among poultry. Just remove the skin and brine it before cooking.
- Protein drinks are the best way to replenish energy after a strenuous workout, and they’re especially effective for maintaining and gaining muscle.
The help you lose weight
There are several ways in which protein helps you lose weight and maintain your muscle mass.
- The fact that proteins have a high thermic effect is a game-changer for any successful diet. The body burns calories during the process of digestion, and proteins burn twice as many calories as carbs. In plain English, it’s good for you to eat protein-rich foods if you want to lose weight. This so called thermic effect is why high-protein diets are extremely effective for losing belly fat.
- Another reason why proteins should be included in a weight-loss diet is that they’re filling, so you can eat less food and calories, and still not be hungry. Of course, this can work only when it’s accompanied by a regular fitness regimen.
- In order for a diet to be effective, calorie intake must be reduced so that the body can start burning the fat that has already been stored. However, in many cases, such diets lead to losing muscle mass, too. Luckily, this problem can be easily solved by introducing sufficient amounts of protein to the diet. How much protein is enough? According to relevant sources, adults should take at least 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of their body weight a day, while for bodybuilders, the recommended intake is 1.2-1.7 grams.
They help prevent cancer
Although there’s no definitive cure for cancer, there are some measures that can be taken in order to prevent this vile disease. Some research studies have found that whey proteins can suppress the development of certain types of cancer, such as colon and prostate. They increase immune levels and at the same time kill cancer cells. 180,000 women in the US fall victim to breast cancer each year, so a study has been conducted on rats to test the effects of whey protein. The findings say that 100% of rats that were put on a casein diet developed mammary tumors, while only 50% of the whey-fed rats were affected by this disease. Similar results were obtained for soy protein, as the incidence of mammary tumors was reduced by 25% in rats that were put on diets containing soy protein isolate.
They help prevent osteoporosis
There’s a misconception that a diet high in protein isn’t good for bone health. According to this theory, during the process of digesting animal protein, acids are released into the bloodstream, and in order to neutralize them, the body uses calcium, some of which comes from the bones. Still, these findings have been disputed by recent research, which shows exactly the opposite, as it says that people who eat more protein have better bone density, thus being less likely to develop osteoporosis. A lower incidence of hip fractures has been observed in women whose diet is high in protein. However, eating fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants is recommended in order to additionally reduce the impact of acids on bone density.
They improve brain functions
Certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, carnosine, creatine, and vitamin D, which are essential for the brain, can be found in animal protein, and that’s why it’s irreplaceable for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Neurotransmitters, which are used to carry messages between neurons, are composed of amino acids, and since proteins, too, are composed of amino acids, they’re crucial for the health of these biochemical messengers in the brain. This means that a protein-rich diet can improve memory and cognitive health. In addition to that, serotonin, a mood- stabilizing neurotransmitter, and dopamine, which is responsible for controlling emotions and reward-driven behavior, can’t be produced without good proteins. These two chemicals are, basically, happiness hormones, and that’s why proteins are mood-boosting foods that can help fight depression.
Proteins play several essential roles in the body, and they’re the most important nutrients for building strength and size. Their proper intake also lowers the risk of developing certain serious diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and depression.
Luke is a guest blogger here on Ripped-Science.com and a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.
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