Among the most dangerous food fads of recent times, we point out that to underestimate the importance of protein in nutrition, to promote the low intake of these nutrients in quantitative terms and to assert between the lines that it makes no sense a qualitative distinction between the various food sources.
To understand the need for protein needs we must consider two basic assumptions:
- Proteins, whose name means “of primary importance”, are substances that arise from the almost infinite combinations of twenty amino acids. The result is macromolecules – proteins in fact – with highly specific and indispensable functions for the proper functioning of our organism such as enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin; some hormones to mention the best known. Nine of the twenty amino acids are essential and are introduced through food because the body needs it and does not get them from other food sources. Eight others are defined conditionally essential because they play a fundamental role in the maintenance of organic functions and in certain conditions; their synthesis from other food sources is not so quick and efficient.
- Proteins are subject to a continuous process of demolition and synthesis called protein turnover: an expression of the adaptability of the human body to changing its needs.
Food sources of protein are a majority of foods from animal origin (meat, fish, eggs, milk, and derivatives), followed by legumes, nuts and oilseeds, and to lesser extent cereals. Qualitatively they are distinguished on the basis of the completeness with which they bring the entire range of amino acids – in particular, essential and conditionally essential – which is maximum in the case of food of animal origin, good in the case of legumes, oilseeds, and nuts, poor in case of cereals.
If all the protein sources, animals and vegetables are present and opportunely alternated and dosed, you will be sure to get all the amino acids you need. There are a lot of alternatives for those who do not eat protein as well, and protein supplements are another option for getting all the needed amino acids.
In cases where it is decided to use only vegetable sources of protein, greater attention must be paid to the appropriate association of plant-based foods (not necessarily in the same meal, but at least on the same day) and to the total daily protein quota that must be increased.
Finally, it must be remembered that the protein requirement depends on the caloric quota introduced daily because the higher the amount of energy, the lower the protein quota required, and vice versa; this aspect must be taken into account in the low-calorie regimes. This means that, according to your lifestyle, your body and your goals (healthier life, getting into shape or building some muscles), it really doesn’t matter: proteins will always be a fundamental part of your life even if, in some cases, in smaller or bigger account. Proteins are extremely important, especially when you’re on a weight loss diet because it gives your body a good energy supply.
However, you do not have to abuse it: excess proteins are eliminated from the body, bringing the kidneys to an overload of work. The high protein diet, for example, can be followed only in the short term just to avoid stressing the kidneys. After a few days, you should follow a balanced diet, based on the Mediterranean model, such as the personalized diet for genetics. Add proteins in a variegated diet and eat a little of everything to really enjoy the benefits of a healthier nutrition and a healthier body!