Proteins are the bricks and mortar of our body. They are found in our muscles, bones, skin, hair, blood and internal organs. There are 10’s of thousands of different kinds of protein, but they are all made up from about 20 different amino acids linked together in different combinations. We can create from scratch all but 8 of these amino acids. We must get these 8 “essential” amino acids from our diet to survive.
Foods that contain all amino acids are called Complete protein sources.
Foods that are missing some amino acids are called Incomplete protein sources.
Every gram of pure protein supplies our body with 4 calories.
The majority of the protein we eat is digested in our gut, broken down into their amino acids, then “turned into” various parts of our body.
Our body uses proteins to grow and repair itself. Without a daily supply of fresh protein, our body is forced to cannibalise itself and breakdown one part, for use in another.
Lack of protein in our diets can cause reduced growth, loss of muscle, lowered immunity, weakening of the heart and even death.
Luckily, an average adult only needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight each day. In the western world, we usually get more than enough.
Complete protein sources include animal based foods, dairy and eggs. But, red meat is also high in “bad” saturated fat. Incomplete protein sources include beans, nuts and whole grains. But because of their incomplete nature, a mixture of different incomplete protein sources are needed to get all the essential amino acids.
Getting enough protein in our diet is essential, but in the western world, it is unlikely we won’t get enough.
If you are a vegetarian, ensure you eat a mixture of beans and nuts, or make sure you include dairy or eggs in your diet.
If you are a meat eater, try to eat mainly fish or poultry, as these are low in “bad” saturated fats.
Eating a source of protein each and every meal is a good way of making you feel fuller for longer, preventing you snacking on unhealthy sugary snacks.
Over the last few years you may have noticed an increase in protein shakes and bars and even things like high protein ice cream.
Protein powders or shakes are simple ways to add protein to your meal. If, for whatever reason you have trouble including protein in a meal (maybe you are on the road and getting hold of good food is difficult), then it is a convenient way to have a square meal. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t ever forget, supplements such as this are only meant to fill in a gap in your healthy meal. You got to ask yourself…why is there a gap there in the first place?
And when it comes to high protein snack bars and (god forbid) ice cream…don’t forget they are still snack bars and ice cream! This is an advertising executive’s dream…making people think that junk food is now a health food! Don’t get suckered in.
Take a look at last week’s food diary and try to identify meals where you either:
- Didn’t include any protein.
- Only included protein associated with high levels of low quality saturated fat.
On a scale of 1-10, decide how confident you are that you can incorporate this new habit over the next week or 2. If it is 7 or below, either change to a different habit, or make this habit easier.
Then use the following document to help you change your habit for the better over the next week or 2.
You can either:
- Download and print it out for free.
- Use a diary or journal to write everything in.