Even when you break down the body into simple components—muscle, tissue, blood and bone—the underlying processes that work toward developing and maintaining these components are complex and often difficult to understand. Let’s take, for instance, muscle. It’s made out of protein—but what is protein?
THE MAKING OF PROTEIN
Your body is mostly made up of water, but about 20% of it is made up of proteins.
Proteins are generated by chains of compounds called amino acids. When you eat protein-based foods, they are broken down during digestion so that the amino acids are separated out and can be recombined for new uses. This re-connection and reorganization creates new proteins that help your skin, bones, eyes, muscles and heart. The newly formed amino acid chains give your cells the structure they need to fulfill their designated roles and they help move and store nutrients in your body. Without these amino acids, your body would be ill-equipped to heal wounds, remove waste and repair tissue.
AMINO ACIDS TO WATCH
Of the 50 amino acids that exist, your body only uses 20 to make proteins. Only nine are actually considered essential, however, because those are the ones that your body cannot make— which means you must get them from food or supplements.
EATING FOODS WITH ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
There are both plant and animal sources for each of the nine essential amino acids you need to get for your body to operate efficiently. To stay balanced, make sure you consistently consume foods such as:
- legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas)
- fruits (blueberries, apples, kiwis, cranberries)
This food list is by no means comprehensive. In order to ensure that you’re getting all of the nine essential amino acids, you can choose a supplement that has them all and consult with a nutritionist to help get an optimal diet designed for you.