POWER UP WITH PROTEIN!
Author: Shannen Singh RD (SA)
We all know the importance of a well-balanced diet but why does protein seem to get all the special attention? I am sure that at some point in your life, you have been in a conversation where the topic has popped up. Protein has become vastly popular in recent years and an increasing number of people are wanting to learn more about this incredible macronutrient. And it’s not difficult to see why. Protein is packed with several health benefits and is essential for many bodily functions. Do you want to know more about why protein is so important in our daily lives? Let me show you the ‘whey’!
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL WITH PROTEIN?
A protein consists of amino acids (AA) linked by peptide bonds¹. They are one of the most essential components of a healthy diet. Consuming adequate dietary protein is critical for maintaining optimal health, growth, development, and function throughout life². Many people seem to have a common misconception that we are unable to meet our daily dietary requirement via food sources alone or that we have to consume a ridiculous amount of food in order to do so. Today, we’re setting the record straight. And while there are so many pros to protein, we thought we’d highlight the top 5 reasons why you should add enough protein to your diet. So, here goes.
- Protein keeps you fuller for longer
Have you ever noticed that there are certain foods that just don’t seem to fill you up no matter how much you eat? There is a reason for this, it probably doesn’t contain enough protein. Protein containing meals produce greater satiety in comparison to carbohydrates and fats³, thus helping to maintain a healthy weight. It is important to note that other components such as carbohydrates, fats & fibre should still be included in your meal and while the fibre is responsible for making you feel full within the first few minutes after a meal, the protein is what helps maintain that feeling of satiety for the next few hours or so.
High protein diets have been shown to be an effective weight-loss strategy for overweight and obese individuals by reducing hunger⁴. This is due to the way that protein affects our appetite regulating hormones such as ghrelin. This is not to say that protein is an overnight solution to weight loss efforts however, when executed correctly over a period of time, sufficient protein intake can definitely contribute to healthy weight loss when paired with consistent exercise.
- Protein assists with muscle mass synthesis
Protein forms the building blocks of all the cells within our bodies. Interestingly, protein intake distribution affects the rate at which synthesis occurs. The rate of skeletal-muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults is 25% higher when protein intake is evenly distributed across breakfast, lunch, and dinner, compared with a pattern where most protein is consumed at the evening meal despite the same daily intake of total protein⁵.
Studies also show that there are specific protein sources which aid muscle mass synthesis. An adequate intake of protein, particularly from calcium and phosphorus rich milk products, is essential to support bone growth in infants and children and to sustain the mass and health of the skeleton in adults¹.
As we age, progressive loss in muscle mass (sarcopenia) is to be expected. In the absence of a disease state or injury, sarcopenia results in a 3–8% reduction in muscle mass per decade. Hence, adequate protein intake is said to play a crucial role in healthy ageing⁶. And who could say no to that?
- Protein for immunity
Protein also maintains a vital role in strengthening our body’s immune system. It is known that a diet with a very low content of protein can be detrimental to fighting off infection⁸. This is due to the fact that some amino acids regulate key metabolic pathways in the immune system. The consumption of a certain amount of protein of high biological value is known to be crucial for optimal production of antibodies⁹. Thus, protein has a significant role to play in the anti-inflammatory diet. I don’t know about you, but the last few years have proven to me just how important it is to have a strong immune system. And if eating enough protein helps strengthen my immune system, that’s a good enough reason for me.
- Protein aids digestion
As with anything else in life, wear and tear is to be expected after prolonged usage. Our digestive tract requires constant repair for many reasons such as inflammation or chronic disease. Protein assists with this repair as amino acids help heal and rejuvenate the lining of your gut¹º. It also assists in the production of hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes which improve digestion and absorption. So, if you think about it, protein really can do it all.
- Protein lowers the GI of a meal
Did you know that protein can lower the total glycaemic index (GI) of a meal? The glycaemic index (GI) concept is based on the difference in blood glucose response after ingestion of the same amount of carbohydrates from different foods, and possible implications of these differences for health, performance and well-being¹¹. If you are at risk for developing Diabetes or already living with it, this could potentially be a lifesaving tip. It is important to note that in order for the GI to be lowered, carbohydrates should not be consumed alone but eaten together with a protein source in the same meal. Diets with reduced carbohydrates and higher protein produce lower meal responses for glucose and insulin¹².
During studies concerning weight loss, it was found that adult women maintained on a moderate protein diet for 10 weeks had a more stable blood glucose after an overnight fast and at 2 hours after a test meal¹². A better glucose response is also important for better attention span and sustained energy levels to avoid any rapid spikes and subsequent crashes.
DOES PROTEIN QUALITY AT EACH MEAL MATTER?
Not only does the quantity of protein at each meal matter, but so does the quality. The protein content of foods varies considerably, but in general animal sources tend to be superior in both protein quantity and quality when compared with plant foodstuffs⁷. However, the combination of different plant-based foods in dishes such as rice and beans, or peanut butter and bread, results in a complimentary effect that raises the protein quality when compared with either of these food types consumed alone, making it possible for adults to obtain adequate amounts of high-quality protein from a vegetarian or vegan diet⁷.
Remember to choose lean sources of meat such as chicken, beef or lamb as removing the skin & fat improves the quality of the meal as a whole as well. Another great tip is to choose healthier cooking methods such as grilling, baking, steaming or boiling instead of frying.
HOW CAN I ADD ENOUGH PROTEIN TO MY DIET?
- Start off breakfast with FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart food™. It contains 30g of protein per 100g.
- Why not try a FUTURELIFE® High Protein Shake as a midday snack?
- Add a teaspoon of sugar free, salt free peanut butter to your favourite smoothie.
- Add some thinly sliced grilled chicken breasts to your summer salad. If you’re vegetarian add some low fat feta, beans or chickpeas.
- Replace rice with quinoa every now and again.
- Pop a FUTURELIFE® High Protein Lite bar into your lunch bag as a high protein snack.
- Try to eat fish 2-3 times a week.
- Include eggs into your diet at least once a week.
- Add lentils to your rice.
- Include baked beans as a side at your next Sunday braai.
So, as you see, it is entirely possible to include enough protein in your diet on a daily basis. Not only is protein incredibly important for optimal health but it definitely makes meals more appetizing and appealing. Now that you have all the information you need to make sure your next meal is protein packed, we can’t wait to see what you come up with! More power to you, Protein Power that is!
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- Carbone JW & Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients (2019) 11(5):1136.
- Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR & Purnell JQ. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am. J. Clin. Nutr (2005) 82: 41–48.
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- Iddir M, Brito A, Dingeo G, Fernandez Del Campo SS, Samouda H, La Frano MR & Bohn T. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis. Nutrients (2020) 12(6):1562.
- Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW & Wu G. Amino acids and immune function. Br. J. Nutr (2007) 98: 237–252.
- Mukherjee K, Kavalukas SL & Barbul A. Nutritional Aspects of Gastrointestinal Wound Healing. Adv Wound Care (2016)1;5(11): 507-515.
- Arvidsson-Lenner R, Asp NG, Axelsen M, Bryngelsson S, Haapa E, Järvi A, Karlström B, Raben A, Sohlström A, Thorsdottir I & Vessby B. Glycaemic Index, Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition (2004) 48(2): 84-94.
Layman DK, Shiue H, Sather C, Erickson DJ & Baum J. Increased dietary protein modifies glucose and insulin homeostasis in adult women during weight loss. The Journal of nutrition (2003) 133(2): 405-410.