Exploring proteins: types and their impact on the body

Global leader in natural ingredients, Nexira shares how proteins play essential roles in the body’s tissues and cells. Natural proteins from real plant powders may help ensure a daily appropriate intake of complete and qualitative proteins. 

What are proteins?

Proteins are an essential macronutrient playing many essential roles in the body. They are found in every body part and tissue like muscle, bone, skin, and hair. Proteins are large and complex molecules composed of a long chain of amino acids linked together. The sequence of amino acids determines what protein the molecule is, each having different properties. There are 20 different amino acids divided into two types: 9 essential and 11 non-essential. Essential amino acids must be brought by our diet because they can’t be synthesized by the human body. (Harvard School of Public Health, 2012) (Alberts et al., 2002)

Proteins are also the primary source of nitrogen in our diets. Nitrogen notably helps maintain the acid-base balance in body fluids and is used for DNA formation. It is also involved in many functions like hormones, immune mediators and antioxidant defences. (Tessari, 2006) Proteins are sensible to heat and are denatured at a temperature over 60°C: they lose their solubility and functionality.

types of proteins in food

In which kind of ingredients do we find them?

Food products often do not contain only proteins and other nutrients come with them. Both quantity and quality of protein are important. Plant protein sources, legumes and grains, are healthier protein sources: they are rich in fiber and contain low fats, contrary to most animal sources. Legumes provide a great quantity of proteins and also contain high levels of minerals and vitamins. However, animal sources contain complete proteins and plant sources contain incomplete proteins. Vegetarians must eat complementary plant foods, legumes and grains, at each meal to ensure the intake of all 9 essential amino acids. The recent recommendations are to include more and more proteins from plants such as lentils, beans, nuts and whole grains like quinoa or hemp.

Overall, protein intake must be enough to replace losses and depend mostly on physiological state and health status. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8g/kg body weight for low-active adults. For athletes and very active adults, the recommendation is 1.2-1.7g/kg. Proteins should represent 10 to 35% of the daily energy intake. (Harvard School of Public Health, 2012)

How do they act in the body, what are they used for?

In the gastrointestinal tract, proteins are broken down into sequences of amino acids. They are digested in the small intestine using bacteria. The body cannot make proteins if just one amino acid needed is missing. It is essential to cover the needs not only for proteins but for all the 20 amino acids to ensure proteins function.

Proteins are an important component of all cells, especially for their structure. They play an essential role in building material for growth, repair and maintenance of the body’s tissues. Proteins like lipoproteins are also necessary for the transport of nutrients in the body.

Different essential components of our body are proteins, such as enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Enzymes are needed for many chemical reactions and are involved in the digestion process (digestive enzymes in the stomach). Hormones, like insulin and glucagon that regulate blood glucose, are proteins and messengers in the body. Antibodies are also proteins: they are involved in the body’s immune reaction to protect it from diseases and infections.

Proteins also help to maintain the acid-base balance and fluid balance of the body. They also provide energy to our body: 1g of protein gives 4 kcal. Protein balance is essential to keep body functions working, and proteins supply amino acids for it. As amino acids are not stored, it is essential to have a daily appropriate intake of proteins. Finally, some amino acids can be converted to glucose, a simple and essential carbohydrate, if the dietary carbohydrate intake is inadequate. (Alberts et al., 2002) (Harvard School of Public Health, 2012)

Muscle protein contains the largest protein mass in our body, regulated by insulin. After a meal, muscle protein serves as the primary repository of amino acids, which can be released to produce new proteins or glucose. These amino acids can also be used to synthesize enzymes, hormones and immune components. Proteins are constantly broken down and re-made in the body: this process is called protein turnover. Proteins participate in muscle maintenance and growth. Consuming protein after resistance exercise training promotes favourable muscle adaptation to exercise and overall growth. Contraction and stretch during physical activity will also promote the synthesis of muscle protein. (Carbone et Pasiakos, 2019)

It is demonstrated that a diet rich in both protein and fiber supports weight loss and overall weight management. Plant protein sources often contain both nutrients and may improve satiety and appetite control. (Lonnie et al., 2018) Also, consuming high amounts of protein during weight and fat loss helps preserve muscle mass. (Carbone et Pasiakos, 2019)

Proteins play an essential role in many body processes. They are important for immune response, and regulation of different tissues and activities like muscle and cell synthesis. They are also a source of energy, amino acids and nitrogen for the human body. Protein deficiency may lead to physical weakness, stunting, anemia, impaired immunity and loss of muscle mass. (Wu, 2016)

Why are consumers so much looking for different types of protein?      

Protein powder

According to Innova market analysis, there is a continuous growth of plant-based protein sources demand, including seeds. Indeed, consumers are interested in protein and even 15% of them have changed to a high-protein diet in 2022. Consumption of animal and dairy proteins is decreasing worldwide, while 27% of consumers increased their protein intake in the last 12 months. Bakery, ready meals, and cereals are the top categories of launches with plant protein ingredients. They appeared in more than 60% of bakery launches with a protein ingredient in 2022. Moreover, the health claim ‘High/Source of protein’ grew by +8% between 2019 and 2022. Plant-based proteins are expected to grow in the next years.

Consumers ask for plant proteins in foods and beverages.To meet the demand, R&D teams can introduce natural protein-rich ingredients to their products. Nexira offers a diversified range of plant-protein-rich ingredients: Hemp seed powder (45% proteins), Quinoa seedpowder, and Astralagus root powder. 


stratospheric hemp extract

Hemp has a very high content of complete plant-based proteins and an interesting content of fibers. Cultivated for more than 12,000 years, hemp is produced by grinding hemp seed cake, which is milled and turned into powder. The grains are then carefully shifted into hemp flour, a nutrient-rich powder containing 45% of plant-based proteins. With an optimal Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 3:1, Hemp seed powder is a strong balance between the protein and fiber content. All these nutritional properties make hemp a great asset to vegan and vegetarian diets, added to cereals, smoothies and shakes or baked goods.


timeless quinoa extract

Native to South America, Quinoa has been a staple food for the indigenous people of the Andean region for centuries. Hundreds of years ago, it was even revered by the Incas as a sacred food and was called “The Mother Grain”. Its great nutritional values made it gain popularity as a healthy food in the U.S and all over the world. Sourced from Peru, Quinoa See Powder is a nutritious alternative grain known for its interesting protein content. Quinoa powder is the perfect protein source for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free recipes to increase the protein content and nutritional value of the food product.


grounded astralagus extract

Astragalus, also known as huáng qí, is a perennial flowering plant indigenous to China. Astragalus powder is sourced from the roots of the plants, carefully cultivated, and harvested. These plants have natural adaptogenic properties, so it is important to regulate their environmental standards like water and soil. Astragalus roots have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a traditional remedy in their dried form. Indeed, Astragalus powder is rich in protein and also has a high-fiber content. The powder is believed to help stimulate the immune system and may help to enhance the body’s response to stress.

Integrating specific natural ingredients helps meet our daily protein intake. As we explained in this article, natural ingredient powders are an interesting solution to improve the body’s energy and ensure muscle and cell function. Nexira developed these products as part of POW(D)ER from Mother Nature, an innovative range of powerful ingredients. The nutrient-dense range of powders from Nexira is 100% natural and minimally processed

Join Nexira on this sensory journey encompassing taste, texture, and color – and start creating nutrition that is evolutive with market trends, harnessing the powerful forces of nature in recognizable superfoods – in a whole new way! 


Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., et Walter, P., 2002. The Shape and Structure of Proteins. In  Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition.

Carbone, J.W., et Pasiakos, S.M., 2019. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients, volume 11, n° 5. p. 1136

Harvard School of Public Health., 2012. Protein In The Nutrition Source.

Lonnie, M., Hooker, E., Brunstrom, J.M., Corfe, B.M., Green, M.A., Watson, A.W., Williams, E.A., Stevenson, E.J., Penson, S., et Johnstone, A.M., 2018. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients, volume 10, n° 3. p. 360

Tessari, P., 2006. Nitrogen Balance and Protein Requirements: Definition and Measurements. In  Mantovani, G., Anker, S.D., Inui, A., Morley, J.E., Fanelli, F.R., Scevola, D., Schuster, M.W., Yeh, S.-S. Cachexia and Wasting: A Modern Approach. p. 73-79.

Wu, G., 2016. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & Function, volume 7, n° 3. p. 1251-1265