Protein Digestion – What is it, High Protein Foods, Main Functions and Recommended Intake

3D structure of the Protein Myoglobin

Protein digestion– the complete process

Proteins are essential for our healthy growth from the moment we are born and therefore a diet rich in protein will further protect our health with ensuring the stability of our metabolism. Anyone can maintain a diet rich in protein, without spending large sums of money on artificial protein products.
Let’s see how proteins play a role in keeping us in line and how our body can digest proteins.

What Is Protein?

Protein is a molecule that consists of amino acids. The most important measure of protein is its content of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen molecules, out of which nitrogen content is the most important. A key feature of protein is that it can only be derived from natural resources and living organisms of flora and fauna and so, we can say protein is absolutely “bio”.

Top protein rich foods:

1.    Meat from turkey and chicken both rank on the first place when it comes to food rich in proteins.
2.    Fish, especially tuna is another source of food rich in protein.
3.    Dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yoghurt are important source of proteins.
4.    Further examples that you can consume of protein enrichment in your body include products made out of soy, such as soymilk or tofu.
5.    All sorts of nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain high amount of protein.

The main functions of protein in our body

The top functions of protein include the following:

•    It has a leading role in the growth of all human beings – for growing and strengthening our hair and nails
•    Proteins also have an essential role to make the human body withstand illnesses and heal itself
•    Proteins strengthen and maintain bones, grow our muscles, regulate our blood pressure, our sense of sight and fertility.
•    Proteins also keep the hormone-levels in place, repair blood tissues and regulate the production of fat in our body.

The process of digestion:

Although proteins are amino acids in form of large molecules, they are still hard to be absorbed, therefore during the digestion process, proteins gets broken down into small peptides. Due to the nature of protein, the digestion is a key process for protein molecules to unfold their beneficial effects throughout the body. That is exactly why the understanding of this digestion process is so important for all those who would like to stay healthy.

The process of digestion in 3 phases:

During the phase of digestion, the proteins are broken down into amino acids. This way, it becomes digestible and absorbable. Let us see this process from phase to phase.

1.  Phase one: the chewing

Chewing of protein rich foods has a leading role in our body development as these proteins really help our proper bodily functions. So don’t forget to chew your food multiple times(it is suggested that food should be chewed at least 60 times per every bite) especially whole grain foods and seeds, which are harder to break into pieces. If the food is chewed well, this will help to maintain a proper overall health.

2.  Digestion in the stomach

Once after swallowing a chemical process starts, upon which hydrochloric acid denatures the tangled strands of proteins enabling the digestive enzymes to break it down into peptide bonds. At the same time, this chemical process creates the pepsin. These pepsins will then go ahead and transform the previously larger peptides of the proteins into small polypeptides and further into amino acids.

3.  Stomach to Small Intestine with the absorption

The small intestine will then absorb the peptides of the proteins and this way leads to the chain reaction of further chemical processes:

–    First, the pancreatic trypsinogen molecules will be turned into becoming trypsin molecules.

–    Then, these trypsin molecules will go ahead and start with the breaking down of peptides into further molecules of enzymes and amino acids, each one with a different role in the body. These include the following: tyrosine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, methionine, and histidine. Slowly, the peptide molecules will break down into becoming tri-, poly- and oligo-peptides for easier absorption.

–    These microscopic peptides, enzymes and amino acids will further go on into our bloodstream, and with the cooperation of the red blood streams and the blood plasma, they will go on into becoming part of our muscles and help with so many bodily functions of ours.

Is there any recommended dosing?

The recommended daily dosage of proteins highly depends on our actual lifestyle, our body size and weight, habits, on how much we eat or how much we work out. Lots of studies explain and recommend different values. Moreover, the different resources of proteins will also define the nature and efficiency of those proteins, for example, protein originating from meat is said to be more efficient, than the protein that comes from other sources.

Overall, the daily intake for adult person should be between: 56 to 91 grams for men and 46 to 75 grams for women.

Important Note:

When measuring protein intake, never measure the actual food, but its macro-nutrient protein content, the amount of which is of course much smaller.

So far, there is no actual evidence on any adverse events due to high protein intake, except a very rare condition called “Protein Poisoning (Rabbit Starvation)“, but it is not related to a normal protein intake and only can appear if protein is consumed in extremely high doses accompanied with an absence/deficiency of some other important nutrients, like fats, vitamins, etc…

If you are an average person who would like to maintain a healthier lifestyle, there is no big need to actually measure your daily intake or protein, only pay attention and try to always maintain a well-balanced nutritious diet, containing lots of vegetables, fruits, dairy products, whole grain bread and fat-free meat (primarily turkey, chicken or beef and fish).

Author: Jessy Donston

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