Why Should We Eat Protein? 6 Reasons To Add Protein To Your Diet

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What Is Protein?

Proteins are essential nutrients that act as one of the building blocks of body tissue and fuel source. 

Proteins are polymer chains made of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. They are broken down in the stomach to smaller polypeptide chains via hydrochloric acid and protease actions. This aids in the absorption of amino acids.

There are nine essential amino acids : phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine.

Why Is Protein Important?

Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. Proteins are one of three nutrients that provide calories (the others being fats and carbohydrates). Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.

There are different types of proteins, and by varying your protein food choices you can provide your body with a range of nutrients to keep your body functioning well. 

6 Reasons To Add More Protein To Your Diet:

  1. Reduces Appetite

Of the three macronutrients that affect your body in different ways, protein is by far the most filling. Protein reduces ghrelin in the body (hunger hormone) while boosting peptide YY levels (hormones that help your body feel full).

Replacing some carbohydrates and fats with protein can help you lose weight or belly fat.

  1. Building block for muscle mass

Eating adequate amounts of protein can help increase your muscle mass and strength. Having a high protein intake can help reduce muscle loss during weight loss and can help you gain muscle mass when strength training. 

  1. Good For Your Bones

People with a high protein diet maintain bone mass better as they age and have a decreased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures.  

  1. Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause a number of health problems, such as: heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease.

Several studies have shown that a higher protein intake can help reduce blood pressure and improve risk factors for heart disease.  (Source: Healthline)

  1. Aids In Muscle Recovery

Being that protein is the building block for muscle growth, it can also aid in recovery. Eating more protein after muscle injury can help the recovery process. 

  1. Can Help Reduce Muscle Loss Associated With Aging

As we age, our muscles begin to gradually weaken. Eating more protein can help reduce muscle deterioration that is associated with aging. Staying physically active is crucial for muscle maintenance as well.

Protein In Foods

One way to track protein is by weight. 

One ounce (30 grams) of most protein-rich foods contains 7 grams of protein. For example, you can find at least 7 grams of protein in: 

  • 1 oz (30 g) of meat fish or poultry
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup (60 milliliters) tofu
  • ½ cup (65 grams) cooked beans or lentils

Some healthy sources of animal protein include:

  • Turkey or chicken with the skin removed, or bison (also called buffalo meat)
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork, such as round, top sirloin, or tenderloin (trim away any visible fat)
  • Fish or shellfish

Some vegetarian and/or vegan sources of protein include:

  • Beans
    • Pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, or garbanzo beans
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, or walnuts (Nuts are high in fat so be mindful of portion sizes. Eating calories in excess of your needs may lead to weight gain.)
  • Soy
    • Example: Tofu or tempeh
  • Dairy products
    • Low fat dairy products
  • Whole grains contain more protein than refined or "white" products.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the daily amounts of protein for different age groups are:

  • Children under 4: 13 grams
  • Children ages 4 to 8: 19 grams
  • Children ages 9 to 13: 34 grams
  • Women and girls ages 14 and over: 46 grams
  • Boys ages 14 to 18: 52 grams
  • Men ages 19 and over: 56 grams

The amount of protein you need in your diet will depend on your calorie needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends the intake of protein for healthy adults to be between 10% to 35% of your total calorie needs. 

For example: 

One gram of protein supplies 4 calories. Therefore, a person on a 2000 calorie diet could eat 100 grams of protein, or 400 calories from protein, which would supply 20% of their total daily calories.

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