8 Health Benefits of Eating Foods with Protein
1. Boost Muscle Mass
Eating enough protein is necessary to build and maintain healthy muscle mass, while also supporting tendon, ligaments and other body tissue. So, protein is important for bodybuilding, but it’s also necessary for developing leaner muscles as well. When your diet is lacking in amino acids, “muscle wasting” (or muscle atrophy) can take place when your muscle fibers are broken down to support your body’s energy needs.
Protein is especially important after exercise, since physical activity like strength training purposefully damages muscle tissues so they can repair and grow back stronger. For the process to happen effectively, you need some extra protein to help repair the damage. While protein alone won’t enhance athletic performance, research shows that eating protein before and after exercise helps increase muscle recovery, promotes muscle synthesis and serves as effective muscle ache treatment.
2. Help Manage Your Weight by Filling You Up
Although some research studies show conflicting results regarding high-protein diets versus low-protein diets for maintaining an ideal weight or losing weight fast, there’s plenty evidence that protein helps make you feel full and can prevent overeating. While dietary or lifestyle change must be personalized for weight loss to be effective, studies show that controlled calorie intake in association with a moderately high protein intake can be an effective and practical weight-loss strategy.
Some of the reasons this is true? High-protein foods cause increased satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrates or fats, so they can prevent overeating and snacking. It’s usually much easier to overeat carbohydrates, especially if they’re refined or sweetened, than it is to overeat healthy protein foods. Eating protein also creates a process in the body known as thermogenesis, which requires the body to expend more energy (calories) in order to digest food. At the same time, protein helps ward off muscle loss that can result from a low-calorie diet, which makes certain proteins superfoods for weight loss.
3. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin is a hormone that’s required for carbohydrates, fat and protein to be metabolized. However, carbohydrates require much more insulin than fat or protein does. The major determinate of blood sugar levels is the glycemic index response from the foods you eat, so while eating high-carb and high-sugar foods results in fluctuations in blood sugar levels, eating protein does the opposite.
Eating foods with protein has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels and can, in fact, slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal. This means 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.
4. Improve Your Mood
Certain amino acids from protein foods are needed to balance hormones naturally, control your mood and act as a natural remedy for anxiety. Proteins help neurotransmitters function and synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that calm us and keep our outlook positive.
Many people who are lacking in key amino acids start experiencing weakness, moodiness, and increased anxiety or signs of depression for this reason. Because protein helps stabilize glucose in your blood, it also prevents mood changes, irritability and cravings that can occur due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
5. Promote Healthy Brain Function and Learning
Proteins are needed to make enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters that are critical for cognitive function. As your mother may have told you when you were a kid, eating a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day and prepares you to learn and remember information.
The brain requires a steady supply of amino acids in order to keep concentration, focus and energy levels up. Studies show that when amino acid deprivation takes place, learning and coordination suffers, but once all necessary amino acids are reintroduced into the diet, learning and motor skills improve.
6. Help Maintain Strong Bones
Many studies now show that a positive association exists between eating more foods with protein and better bone health. The effects of protein on bones also relate to the specific protein foods being eaten and intake of important bone-building nutrients like calcium and magnesium. A diet high in protein from whole, nutrient-rich foods can heal broken bones and prevent bone weakness, fractures and even osteoporosis by increasing calcium absorption and helping with bone metabolism.
7. Protect Heart Health
Some studies show that an inverse relationship between protein intake and risk of heart disease has been observed in adults, as higher protein diets appear to one of the natural remedies for high blood pressure. Also, substituting carbohydrate foods with protein results in lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One reason this might be true is because higher protein diets balance blood sugar and tend to help prevent other heart disease-related causes, including obesity and diabetes.
8. Slow Aging and Promote Longevity
One of the key roles of protein foods is helping the body synthesize glutathione, often called the “master antioxidant.” Glutathione is stored within our own cells and helps us detox and reduce carcinogens that age us. Animal and human studies both show that adequate protein intake is crucial for the maintenance of glutathione and helps the body stay in a state of balanced “homeostasis.” Glutathione deficiency contributes to oxidative stress, which plays a key role in age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, cancer and viral infections.
Research shows that a diet high in balanced amino acids from protein foods can help treat muscle loss due to aging (called sarcopenia). A diet that has adequate levels of protein helps slow the aging process by keeping muscle mass intact, supporting strong bones, and maintaining high cognitive and immune function. In the elderly, amino acid deficiencies can potentially lead to eye problems like cataracts, heart problems, muscle loss, weakness and mood changes.
As you age, your body is less capable of synthesizing amino acids on its own, which is one reason why the amount of muscle you have tends to decrease over the years while fat accumulates. This makes it even more important for you to eat plenty of protein-rich foods to support not only a healthy body weight, but to keep your memory sharp, energy up, and strength and balance in place.
How much protein should you consume
The RDI ( recommended daily intake) of protein for adults who are at an average weight and activity level is:
More ideally, your intake your body weight and multiply that number by 0.5 - 1.2 depending on your activity level, your protein needs go up with activity. The result is the amount in grams of protein you should ideally aim to eat each day.
What Is Protein and Why Are Protein Foods So Important?
What exactly are proteins?
Proteins are considered long chains of amino acids, which are the important molecules we get from our diets. Amino acids can be found in many different types of foods, even vegetables, but the highest sources are those that come from animals — like meat, dairy, eggs and fish — plus to a lesser extent certain plant foods like beans and seeds.
Proteins are long chains of amino acids, which are essential molecules for all metabolic processes. Amino acids, such as glutamine, arginine and glycine, allow for the break down, transport and storage of all nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water.
The body can make some amino acids on its own, but it depends on protein foods to obtain the rest, which are considered “essential” amino acids because we can’t make them. Research shows that amino acids hold great promise in the prevention and treatment of many metabolic diseases, including cardiovascular disorders, infertility, obesity, diabetes and neurological dysfunction.
Although amino acids are separate chemical compounds that are stored in a range of different foods, in the body they’re held together by peptide bonds. Without enough diverse protein food sources in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain amino acids. The result? Low energy, trouble building muscle mass, low concentration and memory, mood swings, unstable blood sugar levels, and trouble maintaining or losing weight.
Proteins are used every day to keep the body going. Because they’re used to develop, grow and maintain just about every part of our body — from our skin and hair to our digestive enzymes and immune system antibodies — they’re constantly broken down and must be replaced.
When you don’t eat a range of foods high in protein, you become at risk of deficiencies in certain amino acids, which can result in many health issues. If you are struggling with the following health concerns, it may be due to a protein deficiency:
Coreen is a Personal Trainer and Lifestyle coach who loves to share Health and Wellenss information to help motivate others.