Friday, August 13, 2010

Protein as building blocks

Tissues – e.g. skin, hair, nails, muscles, organs, bones – are made up of cell structures. Each cell is surrounded by a membrane, made up of protein. If protein is lacking in the diet, then cellular structure (and therefore, tissues) cannot be maintained. New cells are produced all the time, so a constant source of protein is required. Each cell contains RNA and DNA; these are both made up of protein and are essential for cell division.

The protein we eat is made up of amino acids. There are about twenty five amino acids that the body requires to run smoothly. At least seven of these are termed essential amino acids; the body cannot synthesize them, so they need to be present in the food we eat. Complete protein – protein from animal sources, soya and quinoa – contains all the essential amino acids. The body is able to synthesize hundreds of different proteins – e.g. hormones and enzymes – for different functions, by combining the amino acids that we ingest.

Growing children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly all need a little extra protein, but remember that our daily protein requirements are quite low. Calculate your needs like this:
  • Body weight x 0.8 = no. of grams of protein food required per day for health
So if you weigh 62 kg, you only need 50gms of protein food a day – a lot less than you are currently consuming, even if you are vegetarian.

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