5 Reasons why proteins are important for children
Protein is derived from Latin word protos which means “first,” so they are considered nutrients “of first importance.” Human body is mainly built up of proteins. The bones, muscles, veins, arteries, fingernails and skin – these are all made up of proteins. Even the tissues of the heart, brain, and liver are made up of it. Children need adequate amount of proteins as their body is still developing. Less the age, more is the demand for proteins.
Children are constantly going through a period of growth and development. So, I am going to mention 5 basic reasons why children need a lot of proteins in their diet.
1 Building blocks of the body
Proteins are good source of amino acid, which are the building blocks of the child’s body. The proteins consumed are broken down into its constituent amino acids which is absorbed by the blood capillaries and transmitted into the body. Then amino acids are selectively put together for different use like development of bones, muscles, tissues, skin etc. There are twenty slightly different amino acids. Thirteen of these are produced by our body but the remaining nine amino acids are not. These nine are called essential amino acids which are to be obtained from protein-rich foods. Poultry, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and soy are food sources containing complete amino acids, including the essential ones.
2Improves immune system
During the first few years of life, most children catch a wide variety of infections. So, it’s important for children to have a strong immune system to fight with the diseases. Since our immune system is made up of proteins, it relies on new protein synthesis to function. It is a fact that getting low protein from our diet can weaken our immune system. Immunoglobulin, also known as antibody, is the protein that circulates in our blood and make up key components of a strong immune system. This antibody supports the immune system cells and attack viruses, bacteria, or other foreign materials. Children should have a protein-rich diet for their immune system to develop well, so they could lead a healthy life.
3Production of Hemoglobin
Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein, is present inside the red blood cells. They transport oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. Low hemoglobin level can lead to a deficiency disease called anemia. During childhood, the production of hemoglobin is low. This poses a major public health issue which leads to the increased risk of child mortality. Dietary proteins are essential for the production of hemoglobin. To maintain the levels of hemoglobin, iron is an important nutrient. The normal levels of hemoglobin in children are:
- <11 g/dL in children aged 6-59 months
- <11.5 g/dL in children aged 5-11 years
- 12 g/dL in children aged 12-14 years
4Maintenance and repairing of body
One of the main reasons why protein is necessary to the body is because it is a crucial food element which is needed to enhance the body’s ability to build and repair tissues. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Our body uses proteins to form and repair muscles. In case of any injury or illness, the protein is the main source which lessens the harm caused to the body by repairing the muscles and tissues. Unlike other nutrients, proteins are not stored in our body. There is no reservoir to draw on when there is need of proteins so it is important to give the body a regular supply of it. Protein recommendation is different for each age group of children. A healthy child of age 1 – 3 years needs 1.2 grams of proteins per kilogram of weight. For example, if a child weighs 10 kilograms then it needs 12 grams of protein per day. As the age of the child increases, the need for protein decreases. See the comparison below:
- 4 – 6 years- 0.90 per kg of weight
- 7 – 14 years- 0.80 g per kg of weight
5Prevent obesity in children
Nowadays, obesity is common among children. It is increasing at an alarming rate. Proteins help in preventing obesity. Proteins are not easily digested by the body, so the child does not feel hungry all the time. It makes him feel fuller for longer time. Proteins have higher “thermic effect of food” (TEF) so it needs high energy to get digested. In this way, we burn more calories to process the proteins. Moreover, proteins help in burning fat. To reduce weight, the intake of proteins should be increased. The best sources of proteins are poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, low fat dairy products and legumes. Junk food should be avoided. Homemade protein-rich snacks are healthy options for children.
Parents always want a great start in the life of their children. As good education is the foundation for a great life, similarly good health is equally important. Adequate amount of protein is needed for good physical and mental health. It is necessary for the bodily functions to run smoothly.
Some important points to be noted:
- As the child’s body starts developing inside the womb, protein intake is important for pregnant women.
- Mother’s milk is a great source of protein. It contains the same percentage of protein found in vegetables and fruits that is why breastfeeding is very important for a child.
- The quantity of protein given to the child should always be according to his/her weight and age.
- Excess protein could also harm the child.