Why is protein important in your diet?
Are you getting enough protein in your diet? While you may watch your calories, sugar and salt intake, you should also make sure you are ingesting enough protein. It plays a key role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in our bodies. It fuels our cells and powers our bodies.
Our bodies do not store protein so it is important for individuals to consume protein every day. Daily protein intake plays a role in keeping your cells in good shape and should be part of your daily health maintenance plan.
Protein is made up of amino acids, commonly known as building blocks, because they are attached in long chains. It is also considered a “macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy.
Why your body needs protein
Aside from the fact that protein keeps you full for longer and provides energy that will be released in the day, here are 6 more compelling reasons to include it in your diet.
Increases muscle mass and strength Protein is the building block of your muscles. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you strength train.
Good for your bones People who eat more protein tend to have better bone health and a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures as they get older.
Repair. Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.
Oxygenate. Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. This helps supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs.
Digest. About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food, and making new cells and body chemicals.
Regulate. Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.
So how can protein help you stay in shape?
Eating high-protein foods has many fitness benefits, including:
Speeding recovery after exercise and/or injury
Reducing muscle loss
Building lean muscle
Helping maintain a healthy weight
What foods contain protein?
Some proteins found in food are “complete,” meaning they contain all twenty-plus types of amino acids needed to make new protein in the body.
Others are “incomplete”, lacking one or more of the nine essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t make from scratch or from other amino acids.
Animal-based foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods) tend to be good sources of complete protein, while plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds) often lack one or more essential amino acids.
Those who abstain from eating animal-based foods can eat a variety of protein-containing plant foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein, and also choose to incorporate complete plant proteins like quinoa and chia seeds.
What's a protein package?
When we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fibre, sodium, and more.
It’s this protein “package” that’s likely to make a difference for health.
115g grilled sirloin steak is a great source of protein—about 33 grams worth. But it also delivers about 5 grams of saturated fat.
115g grilled sockeye salmon has about 30 grams of protein, naturally low in sodium, and contains just over 1 gram of saturated fat. Salmon and other fatty fish are also excellent sources of omega-3 fats, a type of fat that’s especially good for the heart.
A cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fibre, and it has virtually no saturated fat or sodium.
Animal sources of protein
Considering the protein package is particularly important when it comes to animal-based foods:
Generally, organic poultry and a variety of sustainably, wild caught seafood are great and organic eggs too.
Enjoy organic dairy in moderation.
Red meat—which includes unprocessed beef, lamb, mutton, and goat meat—should be consumed on a more limited basis. If you enjoy red meat, consider eating it in small amounts or only on special occasions.
Processed meats should be avoided. Processed meat refers to any meat that has been “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”
There is nothing wrong with eating animal protein in moderation but including more plant protein is a great idea. Eating legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and other plant-based sources of protein is a win for your health.
However, If most of your protein comes from plants, make sure that you mix up your sources so no “essential” components of protein are missing.
The good news is that the plant kingdom offers plenty of options to mix and match. Here are some examples for each category:
Legumes: lentils, beans (adzuki, black, fava, chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, pinto etc.), peas (green, snow, snap, split, etc.), edamame/soybeans (and products made from organic soy: tofu, tempeh, etc.), peanuts.
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, squash and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds.
Whole Grains: kamut, teff, wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice, millet, oats, buckwheat.
Other: while many vegetables and fruits contain some level of protein, it’s generally in smaller amounts than the other plant-based foods.
Some examples with higher protein quantities include corn, sugar snap peas, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and artichokes.
How much protein should I consume?
While 0.8g per kg body weight is adequate protein for a sedentary woman, research shows that higher protein takes between 1.2 and 1.6 g/kg body weight helps support weight loss. Foods that are high in protein actually slow down the digestive process, which makes our brains think we are feeling fuller, and also requires more calories for digestion.
While similar to the recommendations for weight loss, the recommendations for muscle gain are to consume between 1.2 and 2grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. This amount is adequate to help muscles recover and build.
However, working out hard and eating enough protein will not cause gains in muscle mass without eating enough calories overall.
Protein per 100g