Proteins 101

What are proteins?

Organic compounds comprised of chains of linked amino acids.

What do these macromolecules do for us?

Tons. They play key roles in metabolism, immunity, muscle and tissue development, and innumerable other body processes.

Let’s take a brief look at two important categories: enzymes and hormones.

Enzymes -- These catalyze thousands of reactions in our bodies. By “catalyze,” that means they act like cheerleaders or linebackers (depending on the situation) to drive certain biochemical reactions faster or slow them down.

Hormones -- These signal bio-chemical operations to turn on, turn off, slow down, speed up, etc.

What is amino/protein-folding, and why is it important?

Due to certain chemical affinities and disaffinities, these compounds tend to chemically “fold up.” The resulting structures tend to be both incredibly complicated and incredibly important for biological activity. In fact, many of the planet's most brilliant minds are currently hard at work parsing precisely how and why this folding occurs.

What are the different levels of amino/protein-structure?

Biologists in general recognize four main “tiers.”

Primary structure -- The sequence of the amino acids.

Secondary structure -- The structure resulting from hydrogen bonding among the constituent amino acids.

Tertiary structure -- The structure that results from chemical bonding among various secondary structures.

Quaternary structure -- The structure formed from the interactions among various protein molecules.

How do we get these compounds in our diets?

They can be found in a vast variety of foods, including:

  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Chicken
  • Roast beef
  • Quinoa
  • Kashi
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Nuts

Return from Proteins to Glossary

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