6. Strengthens the immune system
The immune system is made up are various immune cells that are involved in detecting, fighting and destroying foreign pathogens (such as bacterial and viral cells). Protein is required for the synthesis of these immune cells, and is needed in greater amounts when the body is fighting an infection. Ensuring adequate protein is particularly important in winter, when we are exposed to a higher number pathogens.
7. Gut health
Protein is used by the body to synthesize enzymes, including the digestive enzymes that are required for breaking down and digesting the food we eat. A lack of digestive enzymes can lead to symptoms of bloating, reflux and abdominal pain and can affect nutrient absorption. Particular amino acids are needed to reduce inflammation and heal the gut lining in cases of leaky gut, irritation, gastritis and ulceration. Protein is needed to maintain overall gut health.
8. Hormone function
There are a class of hormones, referred to as peptide or protein hormones which are made up of amino acids. Some examples of these hormones include growth hormone, prolactin and insulin which are vital for our overall health. When hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands, they bind to protein carriers (like transportation vehicles) in the blood, which transport them around the body. Maintaining adequate protein intake is vital for the production and function of our hormones.
9. Healthy hair, skin and nails
Our hair, skin and nails are made up of protein. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and is responsible for keeping our skin strong and elastic. If protein is deficient in the diet, the body will utilise protein for the most important functions, and will neglect less important structures such as the hair. Studies have shown that protein can modulate hair growth and strength, which is why it is often present in hair products. Improving intake of protein is an easy way to keep yourself looking youthful.
10. Energy source
When glucose and glycogen stores are depleted (these derived from carbohydrates), the body can use protein to energy production. During times of intense exercise regimes or strict dieting, protein serves as a vital nutrient for producing energy to perform bodily functions.