One of the essential nutrients to keep us strong and healthy are the proteins and amino acids they provide, some of which we must consume daily through food. Here we tell you about the function of proteins in our body and how to obtain them in a healthy and balanced way.
Susana was a lover of hamburger sandwiches with cheese, although she always worried about keeping her figure. It was like that one day, after hearing that the meat has a lot of fat, he decided to eliminate it from his diet. Since then she says that she is “vegetarian” and that she only puts cheese in her sandwiches (without thinking that cheese is also an animal product!).
And although it has been several months since Susana does not eat meat, she has not lost weight . On the contrary, she came to see me worried because she has raised a few pounds. And thank goodness that she has done it, because the food routine based on pizzas, pastas and cookies that she invented is not healthy as she thought.
Proteins are essential nutrients that our body needs to build and repair bones, skin, muscles and organs, as well as to keep the immune system (defenses) strong. Since the body does not store proteins (as it does with fats and carbohydrates), it is necessary to obtain them from food daily.
The main source of protein are products of animal origin (although they can be obtained from other sources in people who choose to be vegetarians , as I mention below): fish, eggs, poultry, meat and dairy products are only Some examples. The problem is that some of them may contain a lot of fat, which not only builds up in the body promoting obesity, but can also be a risk to health, since they increase the possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases. Even so, it is essential that you consume proteins and those of animal origin are a good option, when you consume them in moderation, within a balanced diet (accompanied by fruits, vegetables, etc.).
Now, what happens when someone is a vegetarian or wants to be a vegetarian? Is it dangerous not to eat products of animal origin? Of course not, but, it is important to keep in mind that there are different types of vegetarians , some consume dairy and thus obtain proteins of animal origin, another does not. In any case, the important thing is to consume the amount of proteins necessary for the body to obtain the nutrition it requires. And in that sense, vegetarians do not have to worry, since there are also good sources of vegetable protein . Among the main ones are nuts, cereals (such as quinoa ) and legumes, such as beans (beans, kidney beans or beans) and lentils.
That is, those who do not consume proteins of animal origin must know how to combine their protein sources well to obtain all the essential amino acids that the body needs. What are amino acids? Pay attention because it is a very important data to understand how proteins work in your body.
When the proteins found in food reach the stomach and the intestines, gastric juices break them down into their basic components, amino acids. That is, the amino acids are linked together forming chains that give rise to thousands of different proteins and the effect of gastric juices during digestion in the body separates them into their components (amino acids) so that we can absorb and take advantage of them.
There are several different types of amino acids, but there are 22 that are very important for health, of which your body can make 13. But there are 9 other amino acids that the body can not manufacture, which are the so-called essential amino acids and that you can only get from food.
The products of animal origin contain all the essential amino acids, that’s why before they were called “complete proteins”. The proteins of vegetable origin, however, do not always contain the nine essential amino acids, that’s why they were called “incomplete proteins”.
The good thing is that you can get the nine amino acids if you combine the different sources of vegetable protein well, and you do not even have to consume them during the same meal. The important thing is that in the course of the day you eat foods that provide you with the nine amino acids that your body needs.
The amount of daily protein that is required varies according to age, height, weight and physical activity. In general, it is considered that, on average, an adult needs around 60 grams of protein per day. You can know how many proteins the food has if you pay attention to the labels of the products. You can also get oriented with the following table:
- Tuna (3 ounces / 85 grams): 22 grams of protein.
- Hamburger (3 ounces / 85 grams): 21 grams of protein.
- Chicken (3 ounces / 85 grams): 21 grams of protein.
- Shrimp (3 ounces / 85 grams): 18 grams of protein.
- Yogurt (1 cup): 11 grams of protein.
- Tofu (½ cup): 9 grams of protein.
- Cooked lentils (½ cup): 9 grams of protein.
- Cow’s milk (1 cup): 8 grams of protein.
- Peanut butter (2 tablespoons): 8 grams of protein.
- Cooked beans (½ cup): 8 grams of protein.
- Cheese (1 oz): 7 grams of protein.
- Cooked egg (3 ounces): 7 grams of protein.
- Soy milk (1 cup): 6 grams of protein.
- Cooked oatmeal (½ cup): 3 grams of protein.
As you see, you can get all the nutrients you need if you eat a balanced diet (in general, adults do not need to take vitamins or supplements in pills, with certain exceptions, such as during pregnancy or folic acid in women during the age of reproduction). And best of all, you do not need to obsess over the bills, just read the labels when you go shopping and consider this information when you prepare your meals. Maybe at first you need to calculate the amount to give you an idea, but then you can combine the food in the way you like, without thinking about it.
In addition to protein, always remember to include vegetables and fruits in your diet, and to limit the amount of saturated fat, salt and refined sugar (the latter does not provide any nutrition). Also, do not forget physical activity and have fun, so you will maintain a better quality of life for longer.