Protein is one of the most misunderstood nutrients in the human diet. Ask any weightlifter in the local gym and you’ll find that this is the general consensus: The more the merrier! That seems logical. We know that protein, the matrix of amino acids, is the primary fuel of muscle growth and brain health, but if we adopt the “more is more” philosophy in other areas of life we may find ourselves in a rut.
Red wine, for example offers numerous heart benefits, but it would be false to then assume that drinking a bottle a day would be even that much healthier for your heart. The opposite would be true! In fact, studies show that if proteins make up more than 30% of your caloric intake you could experience both added stress on your internal organs and an increased propensity to gaining fat. But most people don’t have this problem with protein. Most people don’t get enough! If you don’t plan on overdosing, proteins are incredibly important nutrients to consider when planning meals. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Enjoy Healthy Food
When considering healthy foods, simple tastiness seems insignificant (or unthinkable). However, this must not be overlooked. Healthy proteins make meals much more satisfying! Beans, edamame, chicken, fish, peanut butter, and milk ought to be staples in every meal. Foods that are high in protein also have a higher caloric intake and can allow you to eat less but feel the same level satisfaction of having a much larger meal. Healthy food can be very tasty! Take pleasure in satisfying foods.
Protein molecules are bursting with energy that is ready to use. The calories contained in proteins provide long, sustained energy.
A gram of protein has just as many calories (energy measure) as a gram of sugar. However, simple sugars, of which glucose is the most simple, are immediately used by the body. When being burned, sugars provide a quick abundance of energy. Afterwards, there is no energy left. This is why people experience a sugar high and then a crash after eating a bunch of candy.
Proteins are not used as quickly by cells. Proteins provide energy that lasts for hours, so people do not experience a crash 30 minutes after eating. For athletes, this means they will have energy throughout their sporting events. For everyone, this means they will not be hungry between meals.
Fats must be processed by the body before they can be used. Proteins, in contrast, provide energy that can be used immediately without being transformed. In fact, many proteins are in the exact form that cells need to function.
Many people enjoy protein-rich diets more than others because they can eat the foods they like. Rather than reducing calories by restricting food intake, high-protein diets allow individuals to eat a wider variety of foods, feel fuller longer, and therefore reduce calories, without even thinking about it. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition has shown that people consume fewer calories when they eat high-protein diets than when they are not on diets. This happens naturally and takes the chore out of counting calories.
4. Lose Weight
Since diets rich with protein reduce caloric intake, they lead to weight loss. A separate study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a high-protein diet and exercise helped people lose weight. Dieters often have greater success with these diets than others because they are less tempted to cheat. They feel full, and therefore have little reason to have another snack.
Proteins are commonly referred to as building blocks, for good reason. They are the molecules that cells need to build new cells and repair damaged ones.
Proteins are necessary to build muscles. During a workout, miniscule rips are made in the cells of muscles--once these are repaired, new muscle mass are created--proteins are the molecules responsible for this process.
6. Help Cells
Without proteins, cells would be unable to function. Cells use proteins in many ways. They are converted into enzymes, which trigger chemical reactions, and they are used to transport water across cellular walls. Proteins are even used to produce hormones.
7. Eat Less Junk Food
Since proteins make people feel full, those who eat them are naturally inclined to eat less. In contrast, eating junk food and fast food temporarily satisfy hunger (although MSG laced burgers are high in protein as well). These unnatural foods cause the body to desire more of it. Increasing the body's need for healthy protein intake will reduce the cravings for junk and fast foods.
Proteins are used by the body in many ways. Cells need them to function and the many benefits help people lead healthier lives. Thankfully, incorporating protein into a diet is simple and delicious.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet. Although proteins play a significant role in the body, they do not constitute the entire diet. Understanding how beneficial proteins are to body cells will encourage persons to partake in healthy amounts in their diet.