We all know that protein is great for building bigger muscles, for recovery after work-outs, and for giving us a well-rounded (and delicious) meal, but many don’t know there are numerous health benefits in addition.
To help you better understand the importance of eating a balanced diet, we’ve outlined 5 benefits to boosting your protein intake + 5 high-protein snacks to keep you on track with your healthy eating!
1 – FEEL FULL LONGER
Eating foods with a higher protein count can really make us feel full longer, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is due to the fact that protein is effective in reducing levels of ghrelin (a hormone which triggers our hunger pangs) after a meal – higher protein can help us to eat less and feel more satisfied between meals.
The guideline on exactly how much protein we should eat isn't exact, but research also suggests that at least 30% of our calories should come from protein (we targeted 35% for mēle).
2 – SUPPORTS ORGAN HEALTH
Did you know that your body's structural components (ie, skin, muscles, bones and organs) are made up in a large part by protein? Your liver specifically produces proteins that help with blood clotting and immune support, relying heavily on high-quality protein support to function daily.
Proteins in your body also act as a buffer to keep your body's pH balance in check – releasing or picking up hydrogen ions to balance your pH to neutral.
Not only is protein a part of every single cell in your body, proteins also help with nutrient transport. They act as a carrier for vitamins between organs and cells (ex: carrying sodium and potassium in and out of your cells to maintain electrolyte balance).
3 – AIDS IN WEIGHT LOSS
Studies have shown that higher protein consumption increases your metabolic rate and reduces appetite. Did you know that a high protein diet can increase calories burned by up to 80 to 100 calories per day?
Additionally a high-protein diet can also help reduce the regain of fat following weight loss, according to this study!
4 - STABILIZES BLOOD SUGAR
Protein is essential for balancing your blood sugar levels. While healthy fats help to slow down our body's absorption of glucose (carbs), protein helps to pull sugar into your cells for energy use.
The key here is a balance of our macro-nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) as they all work together to provide energy to our body with glucose, without the spike (by adding in healthy fats and high-quality protein).
5 – IMPROVES MOOD & BRAIN FUNCTION
Simply put, protein is made up of amino acids that make up our neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers allow our brain cells communicate with each other)! What you eat literally effects how you feel by affecting the nerve chemicals in your brain.
According to Psychology Today, "Eating protein raises the levels of another amino acid called tyrosine, which prompts the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, other kinds of chemical messengers in the brain. Not as well known as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine can keep you energized because they promote alertness and activity."
As with all things in life, diet and health, balance is key!
Eating a proper amount and balance of complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, grains), healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds), and proteins (grass-fed meats and whey isolate, free-range eggs, wild fish), in EVERY meal will help us to feel good and keep our energy levels sustained.
Here are a few tips and tools for you to boost your protein:
- Hard-boiled eggs: prep a dozen eggs before the work-week to keep on hand in the fridge. A great option for a quick snack, a boost to your breakfast on-the-go. 1 egg = 6 grams of protein
- Rotisserie Chicken: 2 for one! Get a whole cooked rotisserie chicken to enjoy for dinner one night (maybe with some roasted veggies and quinoa) and use the leftovers throughout the week -- Shred or chop into pieces to toss into a salad, top on crackers, or make a chicken salad! 1 chicken drumstick = 13 grams of protein
- Lentils: make in bulk over the weekend or at the beginning of the week for a high-protein boost to salads or as a side-dish! 1 cup lentils = 18 grams of protein
- Almonds: great to toss into a trail mix, chop and add to salads or roast it with olive oil and sea salt for a savory & filling snack between meals. 1 cup almonds = 20 grams of protein
- mēle: each serving of just 250 calories of mēle is packed full of 22 grams of protein – plus you'll get your balance of complex carbs and fats in one quick drinkable meal!