Why You Need to Include Protein in Every Meal and Snack
There’s a lot of talk in nutritional meal planning about including protein in your meals, but how often do you stop and consider whether the meal you are throwing together or the snack you grab as you rush out the door has adequate amounts of protein? For many of us, it’s an afterthought if we think of it at all, but protein is essential for helping you maintain a healthy weight and to balance your hormones and you should include it in every meal and snack that you consume. Here is an explanation of what protein does in the body and why it’s so important:
What is Protein?
Protein is a macromolecule (think: really big molecule) that is present in living organisms and is an essential building block in many of the functions of an individual living cell. Protein contains the nine essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the body on its own and therefore must be acquired through the diet, most readily through meat, fish, or eggs which contain all of them. Plant-based sources also contain some of these essential amino acids, though typically a single plant source will not contain all nine, making it an “incomplete protein”. However, it is possible to consume “complete proteins” by consuming the right combination of plant foods at a single meal such as eating rice with legumes.
Why is Daily Protein Intake so Important?
Protein has a steady turnover rate in the body and gets used up quickly or degrades after a certain time and therefore constantly needs to be replenished. If the body acquires enough protein to maintain its essential functions such as repairing tissues, manufacturing hormones, and building antibodies, then you are probably consuming just enough. If you consume more protein than your body needs for maintenance and repair, it gets converted into energy. However, this doesn’t simply translate to “more is better” since the body can only process so much at one time. That means if you consume a massive amount of protein all at once, like a giant steak for dinner, whatever your body is unable to process will end up as waste. Consuming smaller amounts of protein throughout the day at each meal instead of having a large amount at one meal ensures that your body is able to process all of it efficiently.
What are Some of the Health Benefits of Eating Protein at Every Meal?
It’s clear that the human body needs plenty of protein to function and since it constantly needs to be replenished, it makes sense to include it in every single meal and snack that you consume. The health benefits of upping your protein intake are rather significant, particularly if you are seeking to maintain a healthy weight, balance your hormones, and stabilize your blood sugar.
When you consume protein, your body goes into a state of thermogenesis and burns more calories to process the protein than it does to process carbohydrates. It also makes you feel full longer than if you consume carbohydrates or fat alone. While scientists are still discussing exactly why protein makes you feel satiated more quickly and for longer than carbohydrates and fat, it’s thought that the peptides in proteins trigger satiety hormones in the brain. If you snack on sugary, fatty foods and feel sluggish and hungry again an hour later, you’ll notice a difference if you start swapping out foods with protein like unsalted nuts. You’ll stave off hunger, feel more energized, and notice an improvement in your mood once you are no longer experiencing the crash that comes after eating foods that raise your blood sugar. Prolonged energy and feelings of satiety are proven to be effective in weight management so you’ll have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight without feeling hungry, tired, or undernourished.
2. Hormone Synthesis and Regulation
Protein is necessary for building everything in the body from the haemoglobin that transports oxygen in the blood to the hormones that control metabolic functions by stimulating the thyroid and the melatonin that regulates sleep. It even plays an important role in synthesizing and regulating mood hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Consuming adequate protein guarantees that your body has the necessary materials to manufacture healthy levels of hormones that keep your body’s many processes running harmoniously and you feeling your best.
3. Blood Sugar Stabilization
One of the most notable hormones derived from protein is insulin, which your body needs to process glucose. When you have a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates your body starts to experience insulin resistance, meaning it needs more of the hormone in order to process the sugar in your blood. The body’s inability to control the amount of sugar in the blood is what causes Type II Diabetes, but can be treated and kept under control through a healthy diet and lifestyle that helps to keep blood glucose levels from rising too much. Including protein in your meals and snacks is an excellent way to stabilize blood sugar. Carbohydrates alone make blood sugar levels spike, but protein does not have the same effect since it requires much less insulin to process it. Including a serving of protein at every meal and snack will ensure that your blood sugar remains stable and that your energy levels are sustained.
How do You Add Adequate Protein to Your Diet?
The Reference Nutrient Intake for protein currently recommends that adults consume .75g of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. While that may sound like a lot, adding protein to your meals and snacks is easier than you might think. Consuming eggs, lean meats such as chicken or fish, nuts or seeds, and even Greek yogurt are all great ways to ensure you get a serving of protein every time you eat. Increasing your protein intake and lowering your consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates has far-reaching effects on your health and will help you feel energized, happier, and more focused. If you are interested in learning more about how making healthy dietary choices can help you achieve Hormone Success, contact Doctor Allie today.