Builder foods: what are they and what do they do?

What do eggs, meat, beans, and tofu have in common? All of them are building foods: they provide the raw material with which the body builds its structure, guarantees its growth and replenishes its wear.

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa on November 23, 2021.

Last update: 23 November, 2021

Builder foods are those whose main functions are to build new tissues and various molecules in the body. Its consumption is important in the different stages of life and necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.

Talking about foods as energy, regulators or builders is not very common. For this reason, in the following article we will tell you more about the latter: what they are, what functions they perform and their best sources.

What are builder foods

Meat is one of the so-called “building foods”, since it provides proteins and minerals.

Foods are all those substances that are consumed to provide nutritional support to the body. There are many ways to classify them; for example, according to the group to which they belong, their taste, their function or their degree of processing, among others.

In relation to their functions, there are three different groups: energy, regulators and builders. In order to guarantee a healthy life and development, it is necessary for everyone to be present in the daily diet.

Builder foods (or plastics) are those that contain proteins and minerals in their composition. They provide the necessary substances (amino acids) to build or form body tissues, such as muscles, bones, skin, or blood. Likewise, they allow to repair those parts damaged by a blow, an injury, etc.

Everyone needs to eat builder foods every day. On some occasions, the demands for protein are higher and it is necessary to increase its presence in the diet. These are key in pregnancy, in athletes, in sick, recently operated or elderly people.

Main functions in the body of building foods

Now that you know what builder foods are, it is time to understand step by step what are the functions in which they participate in order to understand why they are so important.

They participate in the growth and development of the body

All the foods that are part of this group have as fundamental function the edification of the body and the replacement of the wear and tear that is generated daily. These provide proteins as the main nutrient that in turn are broken down into amino acids. These last compounds are used in the construction of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, skin, hair or nails.

What’s more, favor the elasticity of some of these fabrics and they allow a contraction and stretching action. This is what happens, for example, with the arteries, the lungs or the uterus.

Support the immune system

The builder foods help form antibodies and some cells of the immune system such as lymphocytes or macrophages. All of them protect the body from harmful invaders like viruses or bacteria.

They are necessary for certain chemical reactions

Enzymes are proteins responsible for carrying out a large number of biochemical actions, both inside and outside of cells. These reactions are essential for all metabolic processes.

Outside of cells, the best known are digestive enzymes such as lactase, lipases or amylase. But they are also required in other functions such as energy production, muscle contraction or blood clotting.

They contribute to the synthesis of hormones

Like enzymes, Hormones are another large group of molecules made up in part of proteins.. For this reason, builder or plastic foods are necessary for their synthesis.

Hormones perform a messenger function that allows communication between cells, tissues, and organs. Some of them are insulin, glucagon, antidiuretic hormone or growth hormone; so its field of action is very varied.

What are the main builder foods

Eggs are builder foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

Builder foods are considered all those that provide a good amount of protein, as well as various minerals. Some are of animal origin and others come from plant sources.


These are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods. They provide the necessary protein to perform all the commented functions, but also a interesting amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. The most interesting part from the plastic point of view is the egg white.

Despite the bad reputation that they have brought due to their cholesterol content, today they are considered a healthy food. For this, They can be consumed by all people (except those with allergies) within the framework of a healthy diet.


Fish provides all the essential amino acids. It is also a source of other interesting and necessary nutrients such as zinc, iodine, selenium or phosphorus. Omega 3 fatty acids are also present in oily fish.

Within the building foods of animal origin, fish has a lot of scientific evidence about its beneficial effects on health. As the 2013 Australian Dietary Guide states: “People who regularly consume diets rich in fish tend to have a lower risk of some conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke or dementia in older adults“.


All types of meat contain between 16 and 22% protein. The difference between white (or lean) and red meats is the amount of fat, which is higher in the latter.

Chicken is a very versatile alternative with a mild flavor, perfect to incorporate at any age and in any situation. Red and processed meats (bacon, sausages, frankfurts…) Are not so recommended and, therefore, can be introduced in moderation.

Building foods of plant origin: legumes

Between them, includes chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, beans, or soybeans. They are an excellent source of protein and, therefore, one of the builder foods to consider. This is important as these are often uniquely related to animal sources.

Legumes are not only basic in the diet of vegans or vegetarians, the entire population in general can benefit from their interesting profile and nutritional value. Thus, it is advisable to increase its presence in the diet in substitution of some of the meat or fish rations.

Tofu and tempeh

Among the vegetable proteins available, those that come from soy are of the highest quality. Both tofu and tempeh are two derivatives that offer a good amount of protein per serving. In addition, those people who do not consume animal products have valid alternatives in desserts and soy drinks as builder foods.

Milk and dairy derivatives

These foods are very interesting for the development of bones for its content in protein, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, zinc or vitamin K (in those made with whole milk).

Among all the products made with milk, the most interesting are milk, yogurts and cheese. Among these, the cheese stands out cottage, the cottage cheese, the skyr and Greek yogurt, as they contain more protein and less amount of saturated fat and salt.

Nuts and seeds

All the foods that are included in this group are a treasure for health. Regular consumption is associated with lower mortality and a lower risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetes or some types of cancer.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the consumption of seeds and nuts is not associated with weight gain. This is so as long as the total energy intake does not exceed the needs of each person.

Almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios and seeds are the ones that have the highest amount of protein in their composition.

Builder foods are necessary for the construction and repair of the body

Plastic foods are essential for the development of all the structures of the body: not only the muscles or the skeleton, but also a myriad of hormones, enzymes and other basic molecules for optimal functioning.

In order to ensure your daily contribution, it is necessary to resort to your best sources. Among them, eggs, fish, meat, dairy products, soy derivatives, legumes and nuts and seeds stand out.

In addition to these, there are also regulators and energetics. All types of food should be included in the diet and in the recommended amounts. Doing it in a balanced way is the best way to ensure that there are no deficiencies or excesses of any of them and that all organic functions are developed in the best possible way.

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