Protein is a nutrient, just like carbohydrate and fat. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and are the foundation of all cells. To keep our cells healthy and to provide them with sufficient nutrients, we need proteins from our diet.
Proteins provide calories and amino acids. The body cannot function without amino acids. These play a role in the production of various substances (such as dopamine) that give us a sense of pleasure and reward. The body can convert amino acids from protein in food or from muscles into glucose. Glucose is a fuel for muscle contraction. When a person hasn’t eaten anything for a long time or receives little carbohydrates, the body can switch to amino acids as fuel instead of carbohydrates. All enzymes are originally proteins. Enzymes are important for many control processes, including digestion and immune system.
Almost all foods contain protein. Vegetable sources are bread, cereals (such as rice and pasta), legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and mushrooms and products made from them. Animal sources are meat, fish, poultry (such as chicken), milk and milk products, cheese and eggs. Meat is the highest in protein (twenty to thirty percent). Fish also scores well. Potatoes and rice contain small amounts.
Protein is essential for good health:
- Involved in recovery and development of body cells.
- Important for energy supply.
- Regulates the fluid balance.
- Plays a role in the transport of substances in blood and in cells.
- Involved in muscle growth and repair of muscle breakdown.
- Important for the functioning of enzymes and hormones.
- Very important for the proper functioning of the immune system.
- In case of (fire) wounds, additional protein is required for restoring the tissue.
- Most people eat more protein than necessary, but it has no consequences for health. High protein food, however, is bad for babies and people with kidney problems.
- Our whole body is built with the aid of proteins. An adult is made up of twelve kilograms of protein.