07 Feb 9 Health Benefits of Eating More Protein Foods
Protein is used by every single cell in our body and is imperative for building muscle mass, aiding neurological function, digestion, helping to balance hormones naturally and keeping our mood upbeat. Protein foods are also great for preventing weight gain, since they make us feel full and require more work for the body to digest than fast-acting refined carbohydrates.
Why Protein Foods Are So Important
If you didn’t have enough diverse protein food sources in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain amino acids. So what you may think! Well the results aren’t good? Low energy levels, difficulty building muscle mass, low concentration and memory, mood swings, unstable blood sugar levels and trouble maintaining or losing weight. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, then it could be that you are not having enough protein in your diet?!
Proteins are used every single day to keep the body going. Because they are used to develop, grow and maintain just about every part of our body – even from our skin to your hair! They are constantly being broken down and must be replaced.
Eating too little protein can result in these symptoms:
- A sluggish metabolism
- Trouble losing weight
- Trouble building muscle mass
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Poor concentration and trouble learning
- Moodiness and mood swings
- Muscle, bone and joint pain
- Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
- Slow wound healing
- Low immunity
What Makes Some Protein Foods Better Than Others?
There are 20 unique and essential amino acids that have certain functions in the body, so it’s important to eat a variety of high-protein foods in order to make sure you aren’t lacking certain kinds. They are are essential as our body sin’t capable of making them. Even when an amino acid isn’t essential, it’s more beneficial to obtain it from food since this requires less work for the body.
People that follow a low calorie, vegan or vegetarian diet are at a higher risk for missing out on important amino acids, since animal foods are considered “complete proteins” (meaning they contain all essential amino acids) but many plant foods are not. It’s possible to combine different plant foods in order to create a combination that has all essential aminos – such as eating rice with beans or vegetables with whole grains, for example – but some health experts believe this is not as optimal as eating foods that are complete protein sources.
What are some top protein food choices that are complete proteins?
A longer list is below, but some of my favorites include grass-fed beef, raw organic dairy, cage-free eggs and wild-caught fish. Grass-fed beef contains special immune-boosting conjugated linoleic acid (cancer-fighting CLA- soon to be stocked in Protein Princess store!) and healthy saturated fats, plus a superior nutritional content than conventionally raised beef. Similarly, bison, venison and lamb are also good choices.
Fish is a complete set of amino acids, plus it’s one of the heart-healthy omega-3 foods. And eggs and raw dairy products provide a high level of nutrients in addition to protein, plus they’re versatile and taste great. Raw dairy like yogurt and kefir also provides gut-friendly probiotics that improve digestion and immunity.
How Many Protein Foods Should We Eat Everyday?
How much protein to consume is dependent on your body weight, gender, age, and level of activity or exercise.
There are also some health conditions that require people to either eat more or less protein than the average person. Athletes or people that exercise need to eat even more foods for energy and performance, including plenty of quality protein.
That being said, there are some general protein guidelines that can serve as a good recommendation to aim for each day. The recommended daily intake of protein for adults who are at an average weight and activity level is:
- 56 grams per day for men
- 46 grams per day for women
The amounts above are the minimum amount of protein you should aim for each day, assuming you are otherwise healthy and are moderately active. These amounts are equal to eating about 0.36 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh.
However, if you are exercising and wanting to build muscle to change your shape you require considerably more!
Overall, I recommend that you make about 40 percent of your plate a high-quality source of protein at every meal. This ensures you eat enough throughout the day to meet your needs and prevents you from overeating carbs and junk foods. So around 1-1.5g protein per pound of body weight. An example would be of a 136lb women would need around 136g of protein per day.
Optimum nutrition would be to eat small amounts of protein throughout the day, rather than a very large serving only once or twice. This gives your body the right amount of protein it needs at any given time, since only so much can be utilized at once (the rest will be stored as fat or eliminated). Because your body cannot store protein, eating it throughout the day is the surest way to balance your blood sugar level, ward off hunger and support your metabolism. This is especially important around the time of exercise when protein-rich pre-workout snacks can go a long way.
9 Health Benefits of Eating Foods with Protein
1. Help Improve Muscle Mass
Eating enough protein is necessary to build and maintain healthy muscle mass, while also supporting tendon, ligaments and other body tissue. When your diet is lacking in amino acids, “muscle wasting” (or muscle atrophy) can take place when your muscle fibers are broken down to support your body’s energy needs. This is typical when on a calorie restriced diet. Yes, you lose weight, but you also end up malnourished and muscle wastage!
Protein is extremely important after exercise because physical activity like strength training purposefully damages muscle tissues so they can repair and grow back stronger. For the process to happen effectively, you need some extra protein to help repair the damage. While protein alone won’t enhance athletic performance, research shows that eating protein before and after exercise helps increase muscle recovery, promotes muscle synthesis and serves as an effective treatment at muscle soreness.
2. Help Manage Your Weight By Filling You Up
There’s plenty evidence that protein helps to make you feel full and can prevent overeating. Studies show that controlled calorie intake in association with a high-protein intake can be an effective and practical weight-loss strategy.
Why is this true? High-protein foods cause increased satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrates or fats, so they can prevent overeating and snacking. It’s far more easier to overeat on carbohydrates, especially if they’re refined or sweetened, than with healthy protein foods.
Eating protein also creates a process in the body known as thermogenesis, which requires the body to expend more energy (calories) in order to digest food. At the same time, protein helps to ward off muscle loss that can result from a low-calorie diet, which makes certain proteins superfoods for weight loss.
3. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
You need the hormone Insulin to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and protein. Though, carbohydrates need much more insulin than fat or protein does. The major determinate of blood sugar levels is the glycemic index response from the foods you eat. Eating foods that are high-carb and high-sugar foods results in fluctuations in blood sugar levels. The problem being that all the blood sugar that is not burned as energy or stored as glycogen is turned into fat! Hence, why carbs and sugars have a bad name. Although, if you know when and which carbs to eat they are a great addition to a healthy balanced diet.
Eating foods with protein has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels and can, in fact, slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal. Ultimately, this means a diet that is high in protein can help prevent spikes in blood glucose, which is especially important for preventing type 2 diabetes, balancing energy levels and keeping your appetite and mood in check.
4. Help Improve Your Mood
Certain amino acids derived from protein can help balance hormones naturally, control your mood and act as a natural remedy for anxiety. Proteins help neurotransmitters function and synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that calm us and keep our outlook positive.
Many people who are lacking in key amino acids start experiencing weakness, moodiness, and increased anxiety or signs of depression for this reason. Because protein helps stabilize glucose in your blood, it also prevents mood changes, irritability and cravings that can occur due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
5. Promote Healthy Brain Function and Learning
Having a steady supply of amino acids helps with concentration, focus and energy levels up. Studies show a lack of these amino acids, learning and coordination suffers, but once all necessary amino acids are reintroduced into the diet, learning and motor skills improve.
6. Help Maintain Strong Bones
Many studies show a long standing association with eating more foods with protein and better bone health. A high protein diet from whole, nutrient-rich foods can heal broken bones, prevent bone weakness, fractures and even osteoporosis by increasing calcium absorption and helping with bone metabolism.
A recent study in the elderly showed the greatest bone losses occur in those with a low protein intake of 16–50 grams per day! It’s believed that when someone eats a low level of protein, insulin-like growth factor production is reduced, which in turn has a negative effect on calcium and phosphate metabolism in the bones and bone formation.
7. Promote Heart Health
Some studies show a relationship between protein intake and decrease in risk of heart disease has been observed in adults, as higher protein diets appear to one of the natural remedies for high blood pressure. Also, substituting carbohydrate foods with protein results in lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One of the factors substantiating this is because higher protein diets balance blood sugar and tend to help prevent other heart disease-related causes, including obesity and diabetes.
8. Slow Ageing and Promote Longevity
Probably one of the most important reasons for us ladies is that one of the key roles of protein foods is helping the body to synthesize glutathione, often called the “master antioxidant.” Glutathione is stored within our own cells and helps us to detox and reduce carcinogens that age us. Studies in both animal and human studies prove that adequate protein intake is crucial for the maintenance of glutathione and helps the body stay in a state of balanced “homeostasis.” Glutathione deficiency contributes to oxidative stress, which plays a key role in age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, cancer and viral infections.
Research shows that a diet high in balanced amino acids from protein foods can help treat muscle loss due to aging (called sarcopenia). A diet that has adequate levels of protein helps to slow the aging process by keeping muscle mass intact, supporting strong bones, and maintaining high cognitive and immune function. In the elderly, amino acid deficiencies can potentially lead to eye problems like cataracts, heart problems, muscle loss, weakness and mood changes.
As you age, your body is less capable of synthesizing amino acids on its own, which is one reason why the amount of muscle you have tends to decrease over the years while fat accumulates. This makes it even more important for you to eat plenty of protein-rich foods to support not only a healthy body weight, but to keep your memory sharp, energy up, and strength and balance in place.
9. Protein Can Reduce Cravings and Desire for Late-Night Snacking
A food craving is different from normal hunger.
It is not just about your body needing energy or nutrients, it is about your brain needing a “reward”
As a former smoker, I can tell you that a craving for junk food feels exactly the same as a craving for nicotine.
Unfortunately, cravings can be incredibly hard to control. The best way to overcome them may be to prevent them from showing up in the first place.
One of the best ways to do that is to increase your protein intake.
One study in overweight women showed that increasing protein to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60%, and reduced the desire to snack at night by half. Having a shake of Protein Princess Dietless Blend in between meals can not only increase your protein intake, but also help satisfy cravings and avoid that urge to binge on unhealthy snacks.