The body needs all kinds of nutrition to avoid diseases and for physical development. Therefore, to stay healthy, doctors recommend taking a balanced diet rich in all types of nutrients. Protein is an essential part of this balanced diet. Protein is responsible for the health of our body parts. In this article, we will learn about proteins, different types of proteins, and their digestion and absorption in the body?
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the most important substances in our body. Our muscles, hair, eyes, organs, and many hormones and enzymes are primarily made up of protein. It also helps to repair and maintain our body tissues. However, not all proteins are alike.
Protein is a nutrient made up of small substances called amino acids. There are 20 kinds of amino acids, but our body can make only 9 of them. The remaining 11 are termed essential amino acids, and you can only get them through your food.
High-quality protein sources, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, contain all the essential amino acids. They are also called whole proteins or complete proteins. Other protein sources, such as nuts, beans, and seeds, contain only a few essential amino acids.
Why is Protein needed?
Humans cannot sustain themselves without all 9 vital amino acids. Protein is essential for building bones, and body tissues, such as muscles, but protein is much more than that. It is important to consume an adequate amount of protein daily through foods, as the body does not store it like fat or carbohydrates. Protein is essential in the body because of:
- Protein helps repair body cells as well as make new cells.
- Protein is essential for a variety of processes in the body, such as fluid balance, immune responses, blood clotting processes, enzymes and hormone production.
- It is a major part of muscles, bone, skin, hair and internal organs.
Different Types of Protein
Proteins are macronutrients that promote the growth and sustenance of body tissues. Essential amino acids are derived from protein-rich foods such as meat, legumes, and poultry, while non-essentials are synthesized naturally in your body.
Hormones are protein-based compounds generated by the cells of the endocrine glands and are transported through the blood. These hormones work as chemical transporters that transport signals from one cell to another. Each hormone affects distinct cells in your body which are called target cells. These cells have different receptors to which the hormone are attached to send signals. For example, Insulin is a hormonal protein that is secreted by the pancreas and controls blood sugar levels in your body.
Enzymatic proteins promote up metabolic movement in your cells. This incorporates the working of the liver, stomach digestion, blood clotting, and transforming glycogen to glucose. Digestive enzymes are a type of enzymatic proteins that break down food into simple forms for our body to absorb easily.
These are also called fibrous proteins. These proteins are a necessary part of our body. These include collagen, keratin, and elastin. Collagen forms the connective framework of our muscles, bones, skin, and cartilage. Keratin is the main structural part of our hair, nails, teeth, and skin.
Transport proteins carry out the function of transporting essential elements to the cells. For example, haemoglobin transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. Serum albumin transports fat in the bloodstream, while myoglobin absorbs oxygen from hemoglobin and delivers it into muscles. Calbindin is also a transport protein that helps the intake of calcium from the intestinal wall.
Antibodies, or immunoglobulins, are an important part of the immune system. It keeps diseases away. Antibodies are produced in white blood cells and offset by attacking bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms.
These are located outside the cells and control the substances like water and nutrients that enter the cells. Some receptors activate enzymes, while others stimulate the endocrine glands to secrete epinephrine and insulin to regulate sugar levels.
The function of Protein enzymes
Protein digestion starts when you first start chewing food. Your saliva contains enzymes called amylase and lipase. They help to break down carbohydrates and fats. And then the role of protein enzymes begins.
Once the protein source reaches the stomach, hydrochloric acid and protease enzymes break down the food into smaller chains of amino acids. Amino acids are joined together by peptides, which are divided down by proteases.
From the stomach, these short chains of amino acids move into the small intestine. Here the pancreas releases enzymes and a bicarbonate buffer that reduces the acidic nature of the digested food. This makes it easier to separate the amino acid chain into individual amino acids.
Some common protein enzymes required in this phase are:
Protein digestion and absorption
As the food is completely digested, single amino acids, dipeptides and tripeptides are transported. Any dipeptides and tripeptides inside the enterocyte are broken down by different cytosolic peptides to produce different amino acids. Then, individual amino acids are carried through the basolateral membrane into the blood.
How to improve protein digestion?
Now you know about Proteins and different Protein Enzymes. Know how you should improve protein digestion
Add enzyme-rich food in the diet
When you eat enzyme-rich foods, your digestive system is at ease. Add more quantities of raw vegetables and fruits to your diet to obtain these protein enzymes.
Combine Foods Wisely
If you eat protein and starchy foods together, your stomach acid has to work harder to digest. Carbohydrates and proteins are digested in different ways. So your body has to work harder to digest such food combinations. If you are consuming high protein foods like eggs, cheese, or meat, do not combine anything with them.
Chew food correctly
By chewing food properly you can improve digestion. It also helps your body process protein. Food should be broken down into pieces before it enters the stomach. It will need fewer enzymes to absorb its nutrients.