Do you exist in a love-hate relationship with protein because you identify more as a carnivore than an omnivore and yet, you are well aware of the saturated fat in meats that could be worming into your system as you read this?
Well, fret not — in this article, we will be talking about lesser known facts about proteins and some may help you sit better with the buffet you are having later. However, as a friendly reminder, pay attention to your intake of fruits and vegetables too!
Protein Is Part of a Well-Balanced Diet
Protein is, has been and always will be a crucial component to any living being’s diet. As some say, it is the building block of life. Whether it’s for growth, tissue repair or being a source of energy, protein is essential for life and indispensable in our diets, more so if your dieting goal is to lose weight. Unlike carbohydrates, they take a longer time to digest due to their complex molecular structure and thus help keep us feeling full longer.
For such an important nutrient, we have listed 5 lesser known facts about protein that can help you plan your next meal in conjunction with your weight-loss regime.
Not All Sources of Protein Are Equal
Nothing beats fresh produce, and ensuring a good quality meal is about having all essential nutrients represented while steering clear from processed foods. Fresh protein sources like meat, beans and legumes contain essential vitamins and minerals like iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin B. Highly processed foods, however, contain abysmal amounts of such nutrients due to the high heat involved in the treatment that destroys not just harmful microbes but also good nutrition. In addition, due to the long shelf-time in canned/packaged food products, many vitamins are likely to have deteriorated by the time you consume them. Processed meats like sausages, luncheon meat, corned beef etc. have lower protein content due to fillers and are high in salt, sugar and fat to compensate for flavour, as well as other artificial additives.
Protein Isn’t More Important Than Carbohydrates
In our diet, there is no particular ‘evil’ nutrient, just which we should have more of and which we should eat less of depending on our needs; protein and carbohydrates, just like fibre and fats, have important roles to play in our metabolism. Protein is essential for muscle fibre building and cell repair, and carbohydrates are our main source of energy needed for daily function. Without either, you may experience impaired tissue renewal and wound healing, lethargy and even abnormal weight fluctuations as a result of unintentionally elevating internal stresses in your body.
You Don’t Need Protein Supplements
No, we are not referring to bodybuilders or weightlifters here — we are talking about the average men and women on the street who would rather hit the sack than the gym. A well-balanced meal of meat, eggs, grains and/or dairy with vegetables and fruits ensures that you have all the protein within a healthy diet you need for the day. Just eating more protein to ensure more lean muscle growth is a half-truth many are mistaken about. Exercise is needed to compel the body to metabolise protein for muscular gains; excess protein that is not metabolised will be expelled out of the body.
Everyone Has Different Protein Needs
The recommended protein intake for an average person is about 0.8g/kg of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 60kg, for example, you will require about 48g of protein per day — 2 eggs and a small glass of milk for breakfast, half a chicken breast for lunch and a small serving of fish for dinner should set you up for the day’s protein needs. There are various factors that determine your protein needs such as age, gender, weight, activities, output levels and special circumstances like pregnancy or post-surgery etc., so do consult a qualified dietitian to determine your nutritional needs.
High Protein Diet ≠ Weight Loss Success
Contrary to popular belief, protein contributes to your calorie count like carbohydrates and fats do. While protein is metabolised primarily for growth, repair and reproduction of body tissues, a surplus of calories from protein gets stored as fat like any other calorie. Putting all the confusing and complicated science aside, you only need to understand that to achieve weight loss, your output must be greater than your consumption. Therefore, a balanced diet and sufficient exercise is your best bet at achieving weight loss and overall wellness.
Good and Affordable Sources of Protein
You can be lean but your wallet need not be. Consuming adequate protein should not be an expensive affair. In fact, there is an abundance of affordable and nutritional sources available to us, that is, if we can move away from all the marketing hype over the newest and overpriced food fads. Below are some protein sources that are wholesome, easily available and won’t break the bank:
- Lean poultry cuts like skinned chicken breast
- Lean beef (high in iron too)
- Eggs (not fried)
- Dairy sources like milk and yoghurt
- Unsalted roasted nuts
- Beans and legumes like red beans, black beans, soybeans, fava beans, chickpeas etc.
- Soy products like soybean milk and tofu