We humans are 18-20% protein by weight. Our skin, hair, cartilage, tendons, muscles and bones are all composed of the different proteins. Every cell needs protein for different metabolic processes – hormones and enzymes are essentially proteins.
Proteins are made up from amino acids. To provide a complete protein to the body we must provide all eight essential amino acids. There are approximately 22 amino acids, that are the primary components of protein, with adults requiring eight ‘essentials’ that we cannot make. These eight must always be provided by foods in the diet – tryptophan, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, valine and threonine. A very important part of good nutrition is providing all these essential amino acids.
Meat, eggs, fish and dairy products are all complete proteins as they provide a full complement of these eight essential amino acids. If we eliminate these foods from our diet, we risk a protein deficiency and supplementation should be considered.
As we age proteins become vital for keeping our musculature – even the heart is a muscle.
Ageing, weight loss and just generally growing old gracefully are prime reasons to supplement an easily absorbed protein powder in our diet. The era we are living in is so very much focused on carbohydrates and often protein is forgotten. It does not necessarily mean just eating a big hunk of meat, as by correctly combining foods, our amino acid ratios can increase, i.e. legumes/nuts/seeds with a quality grain – lentil and rice casserole, hummus on sesame/grain bread etc. Don’t forget the importance of proteins in our diet.