Nutrition Basics: Protein

Today, I would like to go a little deeper into the nutrition topic by highlighting a few key principles you might want to arrange your diet around (I got a few request about this). During my education as a medical student, we’ve discussed a lot of related topics – such as metabolism of all sorts of nutrients, vitamins (cofactors) and nutritional basics – in lectures. It’s also one of the most interesting topics for me – I’ve always been fascinated and engaged with food in one way or the other throughout my life so far. So, let’s dip a toe into this big, big topic:

First of all, it’s important to note that all the food we eat can be divided into three major groups: Protein, fat and carbohydrates. This basic classification belongs to the essential knowledge about nutrition. If you know what these components really consist of, what you need them for and how they work – you’ll be able to have a much better understanding of what diets make sense and which ones are complete rubbish (and there are loads of them). Okay so, over the next few days I’ll be providing you with the basic information about each one of those food groups. I’ll go into detail about its structure and essence, about its function and where you can find it. Are you ready? Let’s get going!

Protein

Protein consist of amino acid chains which are all coiled up to ball-like structures (most of the time, there is structural, elongated protein too). So far, there are about 20 proteinogenic amino acids discovered and to be found in the human body – of which 9 are called essential, because they can’t be produced by the body itself but need to be ingested with certain food. Our proteins are built within our bodies (in the cells, RER) and then transferred to where they’re needed. When we eat food, the protein we ingest will be digested and cut into tiny little pieces (the amino acids, this happens in the gut) and then transported into our system where they can be used to build the needed sorts of protein.

By eating tons of protein, you do provide your body with a huge amount of amino acids but there is only a certain request for it on a daily base (all the excess will be metabolized differently and mostly stored aka what you probably don’t want). So, you can totally overdo it.

P1270239_2Proteins play a lot of different roles in our bodies: They’re like little machines running the whole system. They’re responsible for digesting food, blood clotting, signal transmission, activation & inactivation of systems, muscle contraction, cell growth & repair and so on – the list is endless. To recap: Besides energy levels (that’s more fats and carbohydrates), they’re playing a hugely important role in everything. Typical sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, dairy or plant-based things like beans, chickpeas, quinoa, chia seeds and many more. If you should consider drinking protein shakes, always make sure to check the label and watch out for the quantity of protein and sugar (or sweetener as an ingredient).

 

On a side note, now that we’re diving a little deeper into the world of nutrition and metabolism, I would like to mention that of course, the human body is a very individual construct – this means, that not all our bodies are built equally and therefore can’t be treated equally either. This includes the loss or gain of certain functions in enzymes or other protein, immunological reactions or genetic variations (to name just a few of all the options). And there are people having noteworthy diseases (sometimes tiny mutations with big effects) that need to be treated accordingly – also nutrition-wise. So, there will never be a one-fits-it-all solution for nutrition plans, etc. – but the better you educate yourself about this topic and the better your understanding about the basics, the more adequate your approach can be. And when in doubt – or if your questions are still unanswered – you can always consult a nutritionist or doctor (with specialisation in nutrition).

So, let me know what you think about this post and whether you would like to hear more about this topic in future articles! Next thing on the list are carbohydrates – so, stay tuned. Also, let me know if and how this helped you with your approach to food!

XXX

Laura

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