Dietary Importance of Protein

Dietary Importance of Protein

In the recent days, the diet pendulum has swung in favor of counting calories which is believed to be an effective weight-loss tool, but not one that gives the due importance to protein.  Protein, carbohydrate and fat are the three essential macronutrients that our body needs which provide us with energy. Proteins are chains of amino acid which are the building blocks of the tissues in your bodies. While some amino acids are made by your body and are nonessential, others are essential which we need to get from our diet. We should be consuming protein-rich foods each day as Protein is responsible for many processes in your body, not just one single function. One of its main roles is to act as a structural component of cells and tissues. Without adequate protein in your diet, your cells and tissues would not be able to function.

Proteins from food that we eat may either be complete or incomplete. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids and there are more than 20 of them which include meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. Incomplete proteins on the other hand provide only some of the essential amino acids you need. Plant-based proteins, such as whole grains, nuts, beans and lentils, are all incomplete proteins but you can get all of the essential amino acids you need solely from incomplete protein sources only if you  have a variety of these foods throughout the day. For example, if you have nuts as a midmorning snack enjoy Rajma at lunch and have brown rice with your dinner. Consuming several types of incomplete proteins ensures that you get the essential amino acids that some foods may be lacking.

The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food. Protein in comparison to carbs and fat has a higher TEF which means you’re actually burning more calories to process protein than to process the other two. Protein is an important macronutrient as it helps you feel fuller longer and slows down digestion process making us more satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds. Eating foods with protein has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels which in turn slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal. A high-protein diet can help prevent spikes in blood glucose, which is especially important for preventing type 2 diabetes, balancing energy levels and keeping your appetite and mood in check.

When you eat your protein also matters. All your meals should include protein. Start your day off with a breakfast that is high in protein, and it will carry you through the day, meaning you’ll be less likely to have that afternoon or evening crash and ensuing snack attack. Experts advise consuming between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. That’s 70 grams to 140 grams a day for a 140-pound woman. Skew on the high end if you’re very active and on the low end if you’re trying to lose weight. If both apply, shoot for an amount somewhere in the middle—around 130 grams. But remember that eating extra protein does not encourage muscle growth.  So, now that you understand why dietary protein is so crucial to our health, how we use it and good sources of it, make sure to include protein in every meal but don’t eat too much.  Excessive intakes can damage your kidneys.

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