Compounds, Amino Acids, and Proteins

Organic Compounds to Proteins 

Organic compounds are the foundation of proteins, but do you know what they are? Unless you can remember your high school biology or you work in this field, chances are you don’t remember.

So how about we refresh our education on what these entities are and how they are related to viruses, especially, the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid) family of viruses?

Let’s start with the prerequisites. What organic compounds and amino acids are and then we’ll delve into proteins. We will keep our discussion simple so that we can get a clear understanding of it all.

Organic Compounds?

Quite simply, these are molecules where one or more of their atoms are linked to atoms of other elements. This can occur when atoms have less than eight electrons in their outer shell, which is known as the valence shell.

Atoms with ‘missing’ electrons in this shell will look to find how they can make up the difference, and this is done by combining its shell with electrons of other atoms so that it can balance into the required eight electrons in its valence shell. When this sharing process occurs, the molecules are known as covalent bonds. 

Illustration of a hydrogen atoms sharing an electron from a carbon atom
Illustration of hydrogen atoms sharing an electron from a carbon atom, creating a methane molecule, which is natural gas. (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

What Makes Amino Acids?

An amino acid, AKA “amino group”, more popularly known as the building blocks of proteins, is an organic compound that shares atoms with specific elements.

These covalent bonds contain the atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The common atom that shares its elements with these elements is the carbon atom

Amino Acids for Human Needs

Your body needs 20 different amino acids that are considered important for your health and well-being; however, in reality, not all 20 of these are essential.

Specifically, only nine are known as essential which are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. 

These nine crucial amino acids must be taken via your food intake as they can’t be created by your body. You have probably seen commercials about adding protein to your diet. You can get these nutrients from meat, eggs, and poultry.

What are Proteins? 

Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of amino acids. Most of the work that they do is in the body’s cells which maintain the structure and function of the body’s tissues and organs. 

They are attached via long chains of amino acids. The connection is made through a peptide that links each amino acid to the next one. Together they form proteins of which there are many kinds and each has a specific purpose. All are necessary to keep your body healthy. 

Protein Chart
Protein structure levels from amino acid to complex molecule outline diagram. Bigstock.

Proteins are essential to the body and help maintain the following that is most important for your health.

      • Replenishment
        Like a turnstile, proteins come and go. On a typical day, depending on the amount of energy you utilize, your body reduces a certain amount of proteins and hence, those proteins need to be replenished. If, after a while, those proteins are not replenished, your body can become weaker and prone to infections, as well as muscle and bone deficiencies. This is common in pregnancy and when you become ill.
      • Structure
      • Balances Fluids
      • Transports and Stores Nutrients
      • Bolsters Immune Health 

What Foods are Good in Protein?

Salmon on a plate
cooked fish meal (Graphic Stock)

Our body does not work alone when it comes to proteins. We need the right food to help replenish our health. According to WebMD, the following are highly recommended food sources for protein:

      1. Fish and particularly salmon, is not just good for protein health but is healthy in many other ways.
      2. Other seafood. Lobster lovers rejoice!
      3. Skinless, white-meat poultry
      4. Lean beef (tenderloin or sirloin)
      5. Skim or low-fat milk
      6. Skim or low-fat yogurt
      7. Fat-free or low-fat cheese
      8. Eggs
      9. Lean pork (tenderloin)
      10. Beans


Atoms contain electrons that reside around the nucleus. Covalent bonds are atoms that attach by sharing the same electrons in their outer shell.

Those that share electrons from a carbon atom are amino acids. There are 20 different kinds, with nine being essential for our health. Amino acids are molecules that link together in a chain to form proteins.

Some proteins require external intake (food) as your body doesn’t produce enough of them on its own. 

Now let’s move on to What are Cells and What Do They Do?