Why should you care about making sure you get enough protein? Here are four good reasons:
- It is a component of every cell in your body. In fact, hair and nails are mostly made of protein.
- Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.
- You need it to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
- It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. (Vitamins and minerals, which you only need in small quantities, are called “micronutrients.”)
Unlike carbohydrates and fat, your body does not store protein, so it has no reservoir to draw from when you’re running low. Protein bars and shakes are a great way to supplement your diet to ensure you’re getting the right amount of protein.
It is important to also recognize that there is a difference between protein supplements and meal replacement shakes (i.e. Unjury® vs. SlimFast®). Many meal replacement supplements often have a blend of soy, casein or whey protein to enhance the texture or taste of the product. Meal replacement shakes also have higher amounts of vitamin and minerals and varying amounts of carbohydrates and fiber.
One thing to consider is that meal replacement shakes are often designed to supplement a diet that includes animal and plant sources of protein. These should not be used as the sole source of protein or calories in the diet for an extended period of time.
Different Forms of Protein
Protein comes from a variety of sources, including meat, milk, fish, soy, and eggs, as well beans, legumes, and nut butters. When proteins are digested, they leave behind amino acids, which the human body needs to break down food.
Whey, a high quality protein source naturally found in milk, is a complete protein and contains all of the amino acids your body needs. In general, proteins derived from animal sources (i.e. milk, eggs & meat) are complete, but your body’s ability to use the protein varies.
Here are the 8 best sources of protein:
This is good news for the 56% of survey respondents who already identify as meat eaters who also eat vegetables. In other words, more than half of surveyed readers are already getting their protein from this top source. Lean red meats include beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat and, finally, kangaroo, which is naturally lean and delicious.
Grilled fresh fish fillets are hard to beat – especially those delivering an Omega-3 boost at the same time, likesalmon and sardines – but canned fish is a portable, affordable, ready-to-eat protein pack.
Turkey isn’t only an option for Christmas Day. Skinless chicken and turkey are solid protein performers. Gobble, gobble.
Just step away from the frypan, people. Poached, boiled and scrambled eggs are all nutritionally superior to anything with the word ‘fry’ in it.
The fantastic versatility and nutritional virtuosity of the humble legume is finally gaining mainstream notice. Lentils, chickpeas, split peas and baked beans are all winners.
Thanks to much greater contemporary awareness of dairy intolerances, soy products including tofu are now readily available and getting better all the time. Don’t be shy – have a try.
Raw nuts are best, but tahini, almond butter and other nut or seed pastes all deliver protein. Just watch the serving size; fat content in nuts is high.
Low-fat dairy products
Low-fat yoghurt, low-fat cheese and low-fat milk all offer protein as well as dairy’s better-known benefit, calcium. Great cheese is one of life’s simple pleasures – just keep tasting platters of full-fat varieties to a minimum.