In last week’s post on artificial sweeteners, I mentioned the importance of protein as a way of combating cravings.
As a health coach and nutritionist, I often emphasize the importance of protein in a healthy diet, yet there are some myths and outdated views on how much protein we actually need and what makes a good source of protein.
In this article I’ll outline The Power of Protein and Why It’s Essential For a Healthy Diet.
The Science of Protien
Protein is an essential nutrient, and plays a vital role in many bodily functions. It’s is made up of chemical ‘building blocks’ called amino acids. Our body uses amino acids to build and repair muscles and bones and to make hormones and enzymes, and support a healthy immune system.
Once women hit 40, we start to lose muscle mass, so it becomes even more important to have a good quality protein with every meal. Getting enough protein in our meals also helps us feel full, as it takes longer to break down and digest.
Lack of protein can make you lose muscle mass, which results in reduced strength, finding it harder to keep your balance, and a slower metabolism. It can also lead to anaemia, which will make you feel tired with low energy and could lead to thinning hair.
Here are some of the reasons why protein is so important for a healthy diet:
1. Building and repairing tissues
Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body, including muscles and bones. This is especially important if you engage in regular exercise, or are training for an event or marathon, as you will need extra protein to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
2. Supporting a healthy immune system
Protein is also important for supporting a healthy immune system. Antibodies, which help fight off infections and diseases, are made up of protein. Without enough protein, the body may not be able to produce enough antibodies to fight off infections. If you find you are getting sick a lot, it might be you need to add in some extra protein to your meals.
3. Producing enzymes and hormones
Many enzymes and hormones in the body are made up of protein. Enzymes help break down food and support digestion, while hormones regulate many bodily functions, including metabolism and growth.
4. Feeling full and satisfied
As I have mentioned, protein is an important food group for helping us to feel full and satisfied after a meal. Unlike carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, protein helps regulate blood sugar levels and can help prevent overeating and snacking between meals.
How much protein do you need?
The amount of protein you need depends on factors such as your age, sex, weight, and activity level. As a general guideline, the recommended daily intake of protein is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Studies have shown that most women need between 50 and 60 grams of protein per day. However, if you engage in regular exercise or are training for a marathon or other event, you may need more protein to support muscle repair and growth.
What are good sources of protein?
We used to think that we had to eat meat in order to obtain enough protein. We now know this is not the case and we can find sufficient protein in a number of different food types to support whatever diet you follow.
Eating too much animal protein for a prolonged period of time can place a burden on the kidneys. So it’s worth mixing it up by including plant based protein in your diet.
If you are following a plant based diet, you do need to consider the quality and variety of your food sources, including the bioavailability of amino acids.
All protein is not created equal and most plant-based proteins are not complete proteins. A food item is considered a complete protein when it contains the nine essential amino acids that our body cannot produce on its own. If the protein is missing at least one of these essential amino acids then it is not a complete protein.
Animal sources of protein are complete proteins meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that you need.
Good sources of protein include lean meats and poultry (choose organic if you can), fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, lentils, and nuts. It’s important to choose a variety of protein sources to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids your body needs.
By cooking from scratch and eating at regular intervals throughout the day and including protein sources in every meal, you won’t only be giving your body what it needs, you will also be staying full for longer so won’t be reaching for sugary or nutrient depleting snacks! You will also be supporting your overall health and wellness and feel full and satisfied after meals.
If you want support in your overall health, vitality and weight loss then get in touch. I have helped many women regain control of their health and energy levels.