You’ve heard that you probably need to get a little more protein into your diet. What is all the chatter about? Why is protein so darn important?
– Proteins make up compounds known as enzymes, and enzymes, through biochemical reactions, control every single bodily function.
– Proteins are a vital component of every cell in the body! Hair, nails, bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood all use protein as a building block.
– Proteins are needed to help repair cells, especially after exercise, and to make new ones.
– Proteins promote satiety, a feeling of fullness. This is especially helpful if weight-loss is a goal.
Proteins are the VIPs of your body! But just like on the red carpet, there are A-list proteins and B-list proteins. The quality of protein you eat makes a difference! The reason? Your body does not store protein in cells for use as it does fat. The protein makes up the cells, remember? So, do you want cells made of wiggly, mystery bits of hot dog proteins or would you prefer a higher quality, better functioning cell? I know my preference!
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fish, poultry, and beans are your best bets. Try to eat from a variety of protein sources each day. When choosing your protein, think of the food type as the protein’s “packaging.” Compare these three protein-carrying packages:
– Protein in a 6-ounce grilled porterhouse steak does indeed pack a whopping 40 grams of protein, BUT, it also comes “packaged” with 14 grams of not-so-good-for-you saturated fat, and 38 grams of fat total!
– Protein in the same amount of salmon gets you 34 grams of protein, only 4 grams of saturated fat, and 18 grams of fat total. Bonus: salmon is packed with healthy fats like Omega 3s!
– Protein in a cup of cooked lentils has a nice 18 grams of protein – BUT – less than one tiny, little gram of fat! And oh, it comes packed with the benefits of heart-healthy, colon-friendly fiber!
There is also much research about the benefits of super-accessible-to-your-body whey protein, like that found in dairy* products, and egg white protein. These two provide the nine essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself. Soy products like tofu are also full of protein, and some other sources are beans, nuts, and seeds. However, if you are lactose intolerant, or have an egg, nut, or soy allergy or sensitivity, you may want to talk with a nutritionist about alternatives, such as field pea protein (often sold as green or yellow “split peas”), which is easily digestible but has fewer sensitivity and allergy issues.
If at least one of your meals is eaten as a smoothie, read the label of your smoothie base carefully. Again, think of with what your protein is packaged. Watch out for excess sugars, both natural and artificial. If you’ve got gluten sensitivities, even the highest quality protein powder won’t feel good to your body if there are glutens in the mix! Same goes for the other major sensitivities like soy, dairy, nuts, and egg. You want your “VIP” of protein to only be accompanied by the highest quality entourage of ingredients that also agree with your system.
Ask a nutritionist or your doctor which proteins work best with your particular biological needs. Choose a healthy mix of lean proteins each day that suits your dietetic needs and you, too, will join the conversation about the benefits of protein. 🙂
PS. If you are seeking a smoothie base with quality protein, my recommendation is simple: Shakeology, of course. And if you are vegan, soy-sensitive, or gluten-sensitive, check out the vegan Shakeology blends. All Shakeology flavors are made from whole-food (not chemicals! not synthetics!), are certified low-glycemic (they won’t spike your blood sugar), and the new Vanilla flavor is also GMO-free! To your health! 🙂
*Dairy products contain both whey and casein proteins.
– Neil Osterweil & Dr. Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, http://men.webmd.com/features/benefits-protein
– Dr. Michael Colgan, http://colganprograms.wordpress.com/tag/whey-protein/
– A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington (5/5/2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm
– Harvard School of Public Health, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein/
– All photos & protein word cloud illustration: http://www.fotosearch.com