Protein & why it matters

How rich in protein is your diet? And how varied are the sources? I ask because in my experience, most people don’t eat enough and many have never considered why that might matter.

Our foods comprise three main macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and protein. Protein (made up of amino acids) is quite literally our body’s building blocks – think hair, nails, much of your muscle, bone and organs, hormones, cell structure, enzyme/cell/blood transporters, etc.

Whilst we can make some amino acids, we have to get most of them from our food, we’re constantly using and recycling them and unlike fats and carbohydrates, our bodies don’t store lots of them. It’s essential therefore that we eat enough protein to keep our bodies working efficiently and to stop them from taking important amino acids from elsewhere in the body (like muscle tissue).

Other great reasons to eat more protein are:

1) it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and can help reduce snacking and cravings

2) the body uses more energy / burns more calories processing protein than any other macronutrient

3) it helps you maintain muscle mass (which declines as we age) and it helps you to build muscle when you are strength training

There are differing schools of thought on how much protein you should eat per day, so don’t get too hung up on the details. Instead focus on eating quality protein at each meal and have a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet, because different foods contain different amino acids.

(For protein rich foods think eggs, fish, poultry, lean red meat, plain greek yogurt, tempeh, cultured cottage cheese and lentils and beans for plant based eaters)

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