What is protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient required by the body for many functions, including building, repairing and maintaining body cells, tissues and organs. Protein is also an important source of energy for the body.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 13 amino acids that the human body can create independently, and another nine need to come from external sources, such as protein-rich foods.
When we consume proteins in food, the digestive system breaks them down into amino acids, which are directed to the parts of the body that require them.
What role do proteins play in your body?
Proteins are the building blocks for every cell and tissue in the body.
Proteins are necessary for a healthy immune system. The antibodies that our bodies create are proteins, and these are used to destroy any bacteria or viruses in our body.
Proteins help maintain a balanced pH level in our bodies.
Proteins help in the transportation of different elements around the body. For example, the haemoglobin in red blood cells conveys oxygen around the body.
Proteins are also found in all the structural cells of the body, including muscles, hair, teeth, nails as well as collagen, which is present in skin, ligaments, tendons and bones.
Where can I find sources of protein?
Protein comes from animal sources such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and milk. These contain all the amino acids.
Protein also comes from vegetable and plant sources, which have a varying degree of protein as not all the amino acids are present.
Vegetable protein sources include dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale and Brussel sprouts. Legumes, nuts, cereals and grains are also a high source of protein.
How much protein should I consume?
According to the *EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies, this is the recommendation for the amount of protein consumed daily by adults, infants and children, and pregnant and breast-feeding women:
|Adults (including older adults) – 0.83 g per kg of body weight per day.|
|Infants, children and adolescents – between 0.83 g and 1.31 g per kg of body weight per day depending on age.|
|Pregnant women – additional intake of 1 g, 9 g and 28 g per day for the first, second and third trimesters, respectively.|
|Breast-feeding women – additional intake of 19 g per day during the first 6 months of lactation and 13 g per day thereafter.|