Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in the cells and are required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Simply put – proteins are the building blocks of our body. According a 2015 IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) Survey report on proteins, 9 out of 10 Indians are protein deficient. The report also pointed to a meagre 25% awareness levels among Indians on the need and importance of protein. Proteins are made up of 22 ‘building blocks’ called amino acids, nine of which are essential because our body cannot make them – they have to come from our diet. These 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. But, if one or more of the essential amino acids is missing, then the protein is considered incomplete. This could however pose a problem for vegetarians because, with the exception of soy protein, most plant foods lack one or more essential amino acids, so they’re considered incomplete.Why do we need protein?Simply put, proteins are essential to life. Protein is an important component of your skin, hair, fingernails, bones, blood and cartilage – in fact, it literally holds us together. Your body also uses it to produce important body proteins like enzymes and hormones. Enzymes speed up certain chemical processes – like digestive enzymes that help break down our food and release energy into your system. Hormones act as ‘cellular messengers’ and help to coordinate all kinds of activities in the body – like insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar in our body. Our immune system needs protein to make antibodies – specialized proteins that help the body defend against foreign invaders. And, the body also makes transport proteins that move things around – like haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all the cells of our body, or specialized proteins that carry vitamins and minerals to the cells that need them. Where do we get protein from?Meats, fish, poultry, eggs and milk products are good sources of complete protein and are also sources of certain minerals like iron and zinc. On the other hand, plant proteins offer up a wide array of vitamins and minerals, along with fiber and antioxidants, which you won’t find in animal foods. Plant sources are also naturally cholesterol-free, and usually low in fat. You should aim for a balance of both plant and animal proteins in your diet (unless you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet) to obtain the benefits of both.
The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.