Protein: A Macronutrient

Protein, a required macro nutrient like carbohydrates and fat, is a fundamental, structural, and functional element of every living cell of the body, which plays an essential role in a wide range of metabolic interactions. In addition, our body utilizes this nutrient to build, repair and maintain several tissues and to make important enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Our hair and nails are mostly made of protein.

Thus, it is very crucial for all of us to maintain an adequate protein intake in the diet during our lifetime, particularly as we get older. Protein is made-up of peptides, long chains of amino acids, generally termed the ‘building blocks of proteins’. Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are considered as ‘essential amino acids’ (i.e. they are not made by the body and hence, must be obtained from diet), whereas remaining 11 amino acids are called ‘non-essential’, as they are made by the body itself.

However, unlike carbohydrates and fats, our body cannot store amino acids, and as a result, they are constantly being broken down and replaced. Therefore, our body must constantly be supplied with amino acids to synthesize new protein molecules.

Sources of proteins include meat, fish, seafood, and eggs for those who follow a non-vegetarian diet, while the vegan population can get the required portion of protein from sources like dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), pulses, beans, grains, nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts) etc.