Most diets today are relatively high in protein. In today’s society, protein-rich foods are very easily accessible, whether it be meat, poultry milk, eggs, cheese, yoghurt or nuts, we are having them all, and at a high level. It is interesting to consider how much protein we actually need to support achieve a healthy body. More often then not, protein is coined the high-energy, fat busting food source and that a high-protein diet is good for energy levels and an overall positive way to eat. What is the truth about a protein-rich diet? Let’s look deeper.
Over the past two decades, the popularity of protein as a health orientated focus has been protein. Many have even moved from whole food meals to protein bars, protein balls and protein smoothies. Globally, the protein supplement market is valued at 12.4 billion. So what exactly is protein and why is it deemed the most noteworthy way to tone up and lose that excess weight? Protein is defined as a “macronutrient” and helps to maintain the bodies structure and energy levels. Protein is comprised of amino acids. Amino acids are essential to the body as they restore muscles and organs and regenerate skin, hair and nails. Another huge draw card for protein is that it regulates metabolism, helping the body to effectively lose weight, while also boosting energy levels.
Protein is also a big player in maintaining muscles, so if you are on a fitness kick and are trying to lose weight, protein will more then likely be the first thing that you reach for once you have left the gym. It will retain and build upon muscles. Registered dietician Brooke Alpert says that “Protein keeps you full, steadies your blood sugar levels, and helps build lean muscle mass—all of which are super important to fuel your workouts and help with recovery post-workout”. In saying that, everything in moderation is the absolute key in maintaining overall health. The recommended amount of daily protein is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, which equates to about 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. Simply put, the recommended amount is two palm-sized portions of your chosen protein. Consuming this much protein per day is beneficial for health and can maintain the strength of your hair and skin, as well as keeping your body in shape.
The problem arises when people begin to reach for protein supplements as well as their two fist-sized portions of meat, dairy or eggs. Dieticians are beginning to argue that these bars, smoothies and balls are not much more then a marketing ploy to make money for big brands. A study conducted in Britain by Research company Mintel’s concluded that 27% of people in Britain consume protein bard or shakes, with that number rising to 39% for people who exercise more then once a week. Interestingly enough, 63% of these people find ti hard to even tell if these bars and shakes are having an effect on them at all.
This is not to discredit protein as being a very effective tool in promoting muscle growth and recovery. This is definitely a fact, but it should be consumed with a fast-acting carbohydrate for the protein to reach its full potential. These bars and shakes are not giving us that. A sport professor from the University of Stirling has explained that “There’s no need for anyone to have supplements. They’re a convenient way to get protein, but there’s nothing in supplements you can’t get in food. Protein bars are really just candy bars with a bit of extra protein”. In saying that, most credited dieticians recommend a fairly moderate intake of protein. So how do we get enough through our food?
Replacing your morning cereal with eggs is a very good way to increase your protein intake. Three large eggs contain 19 grams of high-quality protein. Not only this, but they are also a very healthy food choice, giving the body choline and selenium as well. They also help you feel fuller for longer then most cereals will. Adding almonds to your meals is also another easy way to up your daily protein intake. Almonds are delicious and contain 6 grams of protein in a 28 gram serving. They are also super versatile, and you can pop them into and on top of almost any dish. They are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and high in magnesium and fiber.
Snacking on cheese is another good way to increase your protein intake. Choosing the right snack is a great way to get extra protein into your diet. In comparison, a 28g serving of tortilla chips has only 2 grams of protein, whereas the same amount of cheese has 7 grams of protein. That is quite a vast jump of protein between snacks. Incorporating Greek yoghurt into your diet will also keep your protein levels up, with a 240 gram serving offering up 17-20 grams of protein. It is also great for gut health, with research showing that Greek yogurt increases the release of the gut hormones GLP-1 and PYY, which reduce hunger and make you feel fuller for longer. Don’t forget to keep protein rich foods, such as meat and legumes, present in every meal. Research has established that 20-30 grams of protein should be accountable in each meal.
Protein is a very relevant and needed addition to every diet. Making sure that you consume enough protein every day is important for the overall health of your body, while also helping you to stay energized and keep that extra weight off. In saying that, be wary of protein supplements like smoothies and bars. They are usually very high in sugar, expensive and usually unnecessary, with the daily recommended amount of protein being easily accessible through healthy whole foods.