What do you think about when you hear the word protein? For most, the first things that likely come to mind are foods such as eggs, meat, fish and poultry, then maybe other foods like cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds and pulses, or ‘legumes’ like dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. Or maybe it’s protein powder. Whey and soy protein probably top the list since they were the first types of protein powders on the market but increasingly more so are vegetarian proteins like hemp, brown rice, pea and fermented soy.
If the word protein makes you think of a diet plan, most likely it’s the Atkins Diet but could also be the Zone or South Beach diet or, more recently, the Paleo diet (all higher in protein that the typical North American diet and certainly higher than the official Governmental Guidelines).
Protein is made up of the same atoms as fat and carbohydrate (oxygen, hydrogen and carbon) save one – nitrogen. It’s the presence of nitrogen that makes protein unique and vital for health. Nitrogen is an essential part of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which are used to make bodily structures such as muscle, to aid with metabolic reactions via the action of enzymes, and for making DNA. Without nitrogen, life as we know it wouldn’t exist, which is why protein plays a critical role in overall health and wellness.
You could say our bodies are primarily made of protein; this includes our bones (the protein collagen is layered onto a scaffolding made up of minerals), skin, hair, white blood cells, red blood cells, antibodies, hormones, muscles, tissues, organs and even the enzymes we produce to digest our foods.
Sufficient amounts of protein can help to sustain weight loss through protein’s ability to increase satiety, increase energy, boost metabolism, help to preserve muscle, and improve the balance of key hormones such as insulin, leptin, and glucagon, key players in appetite regulation.
The real question is: Are you eating enough protein and are you eating enough at the right times, throughout the day to get the greatest benefit from this unique macronutrient? You may be surprised. Latest research suggests that we’ve underestimated the amount of protein that we need for optimal health by nearly 50%.
Download my ebook on The Secrets of Using Protein in Your Diet to learn more!