Most of us eat enough protein to prevent a deficiency however we may benefit from replacing some carbohydrates or fats in our diet with protein as it plays so many important roles in the body:
· Protein helps to control our appetite. It reduces our hunger hormone and increases hormones that help us feel full. This lowers our calorie consumption, aiding in weight regulation.
· Protein builds muscle. When trying to build up muscle mass through strength training, adequate protein intake is essential. It is also important in weight loss, to ensure muscle mass is maintained.
· Protein intake has been found to improve bone health and bone mass, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
· Increasing protein intake may reduce cravings and snacking.
· Studies have shown that increasing protein intake may boost metabolism and help us burn more calories.
· Increased protein in our diets can therefore assist in weight loss and weight maintenance.
· Adequate protein intake may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol leading to improved cardiovascular health.
· Protein is important for repair and recovery after injury as protein forms the building blocks of all our cells and tissues.
· While individuals with existing kidney issues may need to watch their protein intake, eating protein does not appear to harm healthy kidneys.
· Eating enough protein may help us stay fit as we age by reducing muscle loss.
It is important to note that although increasing our protein intake can have health benefits for many, it is not necessary for everyone. If, however, you need to lose weight, increase your metabolism or wish to increase your muscle mass through strength training, it is essential that you are taking in adequate amounts of protein.
Current recommendations for a healthy adult are that roughly 10 – 35% of our total daily calorie consumption should consist of protein. This varies depending on activity levels, overall daily calorie intake and on an individual’s body mass. While a balanced diet including adequate amounts of all macro and micronutrients is key, here are some examples of what 10g of protein may look like:
· 2 small eggs
· 2.5 tablespoons peanut butter
· 1 cup of quinoa (cooked)
· 3/4 cup black beans (cooked)
· 1 cup of oats (uncooked)
· 85g piece of cooked chicken breast or a 100g fillet of cooked salmon provides around 27g of protein.
Try to spread your protein intake out throughout the day by including some protein with each main meal. This can be particularly challenging at breakfast and lunch times so try to plan meals accordingly.