Do we really know what proteins are? There are many doubts, misinformation and myths, encouraged by outdated or incorrect information, as well as some drama. The truth is that, even in the nutrition sector itself, this component of the diet does not have as much attention as sugar or fats.
However, it is important to know what they are, what they are for and why. Today we try to solve all the possible doubts about it, so that you understand where they come from, what they can do in your body and how to use them to our benefit.
What are proteins?
When analyzing the nutritional composition of a food we obtain a profile that divides it into components: carbohydrates, fats, micronutrients, proteins … Proteins make reference to the composition of the total weight of the food that correspond to … proteins, worth the redundancy.
Proteins are the basis of all living beings, since they are the most versatile biomolecules that exist. They are tools in themselves since they have a composition according to their function, that is, the role they are going to do in our body: they can be enzymes responsible for degrading, catalyzing reactions, transporting nutrients or anything that comes to mind. Literally there are billions of proteins. Our body is capable of forming many of these.
However, in order to make them, we need to eat the “pieces” that make it up. These pieces are the amino acids and they are joined in very long chains to form the proteins. There are millions of amino acids, but there are 20 in particular needed to form the proteins related to life. Of these, 9 (or 10) are considered essential for human beings, since we can not manufacture them and we must obtain them by eating.
It is the combination of these amino acids, which are joined in very long chains (making endless combinations), which gives so much dynamism to proteins. For this reason, it is very important that our daily diet contemplates an adequate amount of protein and that these are of good quality.
Basically, the highest quality proteins are those that are best retained and used in our body. Not all are the same. Its quality depends on the composition, its origin and, above all, its bioavailability. Bioavailability is a somewhat diffuse term that refers to the ability to assimilate a nutrient in the body.
This capacity depends on many things, especially with what other substances the immediate environment shares. For example, fibers tend to drag certain nutrients and reduce their bioavailability. A salt could help our body assimilate a nutrient better, increasing this value.
Not all proteins of all foods are of the same quality because not all are assimilated in the same way. On the other hand, it is also associated with the quality of this to the amount of amino acids available in the food. The “highest quality protein” is that which contains the greatest amount of assimilable amino acids. Actually, this term can be confusing, because we are actually saying proteins, in the plural, of quality.