What is protein and why do we need it? Are you getting enough? Read on to find out.
Protein is an essential nutrient that we must obtain from food every day, as it is not stored by the body. Protein is essential for the repair of muscles and tissues, muscle growth, regulation of metabolism and production of energy. Continue reading to find out how easy it can be to introduce some plant protein food powders into your diet.
How much do you need?
The amount of protein you need depends on your body weight and your health status. For example, when you are sick or under stress, your body needs more protein as it uses energy to fight off what ails you. Your immune system depends on a constant supply of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. If you do not take in enough kilojoules and protein, you risk nutritional deficiency and muscle wasting.
Your body’s needs for protein alter during different life stages. For example, during pregnancy, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for women age 31-50 increases by 12 grams per day, and by 16 grams per day while breast feeding. Athletes require additional protein in order to increase muscle mass, energy and stamina, and their needs vary according to body weight and the type and intensity of activity. An increased intake of protein also plays a key part in diets which are helpful in supporting weight loss, such as the Keto and Paleo diets.
Protein is essential for the repair of muscles and tissues, muscle growth, regulation of metabolism and production of energy.
Protein naturally activates the body’s innate satiety mechanisms, so you will feel fuller for longer, and be less likely to overeat. Plus, when your meal has a greater ratio of protein to carbohydrates, it stabilises blood sugar, reduces insulin response and avoids that post-meal slump in energy that can come after eating a high-carb snack. Research also suggests that leucine, an amino acid found in protein, helps you to maintain muscle mass while losing body fat during a weight loss program.
Good protein sources
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products are excellent sources of protein, and provide all of the amino acids that your body requires. For most people, one of these animal protein foods is regarded as the basis of at least one meal a day, and this is usually enough to meet the recommended dietary in take. However, the nutritional advantages of these animal foods must be weighed up against their undesirable fat content and lack of carbohydrates and dietary fibre. Also, for vegetarians or vegans, meat is not an option, and so they look to plant-based sources for their daily protein.
Plant-based sources of protein include different types of legumes (peas, beans, lentils), as well as a huge variety of nut sand seeds. Legumes are low in sodium and saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. In addition to being good sources of protein, nuts and seeds also supply many vitamins, minerals, and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. When you choose a lower-fat plant protein, you will get a higher concentration of protein, weight for weight, than its higher-fat counter part, such as steak. Plus, all plant proteins have a high soluble fibre content, which helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce constipation.
Plant-based protein foods are a healthy choice for anyone looking to reduce or eliminate their intake of animal-derived foods while ensuring that their protein intake remains optimal, as wellas anyone who feels their protein intake may be inadequate for their needs and therefore wishes to take a supplement. While protein bars are a great go-to for boosting your protein intake, there are many more options appearing on our shelves –