How are proteins (links of amino acids) combined?

Take home message

By eating according to the Dietary Guidelines, the essential nutrients (such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals) can be obtained without knowing which ones are in each of the food groups.

For vegetarians, this includes obtaining sufficient amounts - from plant-based food groups - of the various amino acids to form complete proteins.


Proteins consist of links of amino acids, in almost infinite combinations and shapes. Linked amino acids are called peptides.

The body uses proteins for 
  • strength and shape in tissues, such as the skin, tendons, membranes, muscles, organs, and bones
  • enzymes that enable chemical reactions
  • hormones that regulate body processes
  • maintain fluid balances in volume and composition
  • act as buffers to maintain the acid - base balance
  • transport substances such as lipids, vitamins, minerals, an oxygen
  • antibodies to inactivate foreign substances and protect against disease
  • glucose for energy needs
  • fibrin to create blood clots
  • collagen to form scars
  • opsin for vision
  • other functions
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Nutrition 101, Wageningen University
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Whitney, Ellie and Sharon Ready Rolfes. Understanding Nutrition, 2016.