Why You Need Protein in Your Diet
Protein is an essential nutrient found in animal products, nuts, and beans. The name protein name comes from the Greek word protos, which means “first.” Your body uses proteins in your diet to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesize new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions.
To visualise a molecule of protein, close your eyes and see a very long chain, rather like a chain of sausage links. The links in the chains are amino acids, commonly known as the building blocks of protein. In addition to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, amino acids contain a nitrogen (amino) group. The amino group is essential for synthesizing (assembling) specialized proteins in your body.
The human body is packed full of proteins. Proteins are present in the outer and inner membranes of every living cell. Here’s where else protein makes an appearance:
- Your hair, your nails, and the outer layers of your skin are made of the protein keratin. Keratin is a scleroprotein, or a protein resistant to digestive enzymes. So if you bite your nails, you can’t digest them.
- Muscle tissue contains myosin, actin, myoglobin, and a number of other proteins.
- Bone has plenty of protein. The outer part of bone is hardened with minerals such as calcium, but the basic, rubbery inner structure is protein; and bone marrow, the soft material inside the bone, also contains protein.
- Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. Plasma, the clear fluid in blood, contains fat and protein particles known as lipoproteins, which ferry cholesterol around and out of the body.
About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which are specialized worker proteins that do specific jobs, such as digest food and assemble or divide molecules to make new cells and chemical substances. To perform these functions, enzymes often need specific vitamins and minerals.
Your ability to see, think, hear, and move — in fact, to do just about everything that you consider part of a healthy life — requires your nerve cells to send messages back and forth to each other and to other specialized kinds of cells, such as muscle cells. Sending these messages requires chemicals called neurotransmitters. Making neurotransmitters requires — guess what — proteins.
Finally, proteins play an important part in the creation of every new cell and every new individual. Your chromosomes consist of nucleoproteins, which are substances made of amino acids and nucleic acids.
6 Best Sources of Protein
1. Fish (Line Caught)
It is recommended to consume at least two servings of 75 grams or ½ cup of fish each week. Choose fish such as char, salmon, herring and rainbow trout.
Most fish contains about the same amount of protein as meat, and provides Omega-3, iron and vitamin B-12, important for energy. It’s also a healthy swap for some popular meat options. For example, ounce for ounce, a salmon steak has one fourth the saturated fat of beef steak.
2. Eggs (Free Range & Organic)
One medium egg contains just 70 to 85 calories and about 6.5 grams of protein. That means three eggs provides 19.5 grams of protein: the average woman needs about 50 grams a day, so that’s almost half of your daily intake. (Actual protein needs depend on your weight and level of activity; talk to your healthcare professional to get specific requirements for you). Eating a three-egg Spanish omelette, or three scrambled or poached eggs on toast, will keep you full for hours.
|1 medium egg
3. Lean meat
If red meat is your preferred source of protein, choose the leanest cuts to reduce the added fat. Lean options such as steaks and extra lean ground beef may cost a little more but the benefits are priceless.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet recommends 175 grams of lean meat a day. Following this diet can lower your blood pressure by 8.9/4.5 mmHg, reducing your risk of heart disease by 15 %and your stroke risk by 27 %.
4. Nuts and legumes (Soak Prior to Cooking & Eating)
Legumes can be considered the perfect food. They contain more protein than any other plant food, are high in complex carbs and low in fat. A cup of cooked lentils will provide nearly 18 grams of protein, comparable to a serving of T-bone steak.
Nuts are a great source of protein and good fats (mono and polyunsaturated). They are also a slow-burning food, leaving you feeling full longer. Studies have shown that nuts can even help people lose weight.
|Almonds raw 1.2g
5. Poultry (Free Range & Hormone Free)
Chicken and Turkey are a great sources of protein and low in saturated fat, especially if you choose skinless white meat. A 3-½ oz piece chicken breast will provide you 21 grams of protein. In addition to protein, poultry provides good amounts of B vitamins and zinc. Turkey even provides other nutrients that are being studies for their connection to alleviating depression.
6. Low-fat dairy (Biodynamic & Organic)
Dairy is not just important for bone health. The protein in low-fat dairy products, such as Biodynamic yogurt and milk (available at health food stores), also helps to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand recommends adults have 2-3 servings of milk and alternatives every day. Two cups of Biodynamic milk each day will not only boost your protein intake, but will also provide adequate vitamin D.
|Yogurt Natural Plain 200g Tub