Protein 101: Why we Need it and How to Include it in your Diet
Protein. You hear a lot about it these days, especially in the wellness and workout community. Everybody talks about how they incorporate this valuable nutrient into their diet, whether it be through protein powder or protein-rich foods. But here’s the thing; many people are still not getting enough protein in their daily diet. In fact, it is estimated that one billion people worldwide suffer from inadequate protein intake. That’s a lot of people! Often times, when people transition to a plant-based diet, they struggle with getting enough protein in their meals as well. If you are looking to include more protein in your diet, we’ve got some tips for you.
What is Protein?
First, let’s get back to basics. What exactly is protein? Well, it’s a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass in our bodies. It’s typically found in animal products like chicken and beef but it’s also present in plant-based sources, like nuts and seeds. There are three types of macronutrients; proteins, fats and carbohydrates. All of these macronutrients give our body calories (a.k.a. energy)! Our bodies require large amounts of these macronutrients in order to thrive, hence the term “macro”. Protein makes up to 15 percent of our body weight, making it an important nutrient to add to our diet. It is composed of amino acids which are organic compounds made of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, oxygen or sulfur. These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, helping to keep our muscle mass strong. Lysine is an essential amino acid that the body can’t make, so it is needed to come from your diet. Superior Labs 100% Natural L-Lysine is an alpha-amino acid that has been shown to promote strong muscle mass and immune function. Each capsule contains 500mg of L-Lysine without any artificial or harmful ingredients. Learn more about Superior Labs 100% Natural L-Lysine here. (https://superiorlabs.com/collections/wellness/products/l-lysine)
How much Protein do we Need?
This is a tricky question because everybody is different, and every BODY is different. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that 10 to 35% of daily calories should come from a high-quality source of protein. How that equates to grams of protein is dependent on the caloric needs of the individual. The US Department of Agriculture says the amount of protein foods a person eats depends on their age and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough food from this group but they need to make an emphasis on including leaner and more via ride selections of food in their meals. The general consensus is that most people need 20 to 30 g of protein per meal. If you are unclear about how much protein your body needs, it is important to speak with a local health care practitioner to determine the right amount for you.
How to Include Protein into your Daily Diet - Like we mentioned, it’s important to include a variety of macro nutrients into your daily diet. That being said, be mindful of how much protein you were eating with each meal. Here are some protein rich foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine
Yogurt in the Morning - Depending on the type of yogurt and the brand, the average serving of yogurt can have 12 to 17.3 g of protein. One cup of plain Greek yogurt helps you meet the recommended dietary guidelines of three daily servings of low-fat dairy products. What’s great about yogurt is people who have lactose intolerance are most often able to consume yogurt without any issues. That’s because it’s easier to digest due to the bacterial breakdown of those sugars found in the milk. In addition to being a great source of protein, yogurt gives your body a healthy boost of good bacteria, essential for promoting gut health. When it comes to purchasing yogurt, try to find a brand that does not include a variety of artificial ingredients and flavors in the mix. Less is best and be sure to read through the label to understand what you are eating.
Trail Mix – Now of course, we’re not talking about the sugary mixes that you can find in the bulk containers at most grocery stores. We are talking about the snack mix made with wholesome ingredients including nuts, oats and seeds. You can even make snack mix from the comforts of your own home and add your favorite ingredients like cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts and peanuts. If you want to sweeten it up, use a natural sweetener like honey to give it some extra flavor. Bring your snack mix with you on-the-go to work, school or the gym. This way, you’ll be giving your body a boost of protein as you go about your daily routine.
Whirl up a Smoothie - Smoothies are wonderful way to incorporate a variety of beneficial nutrients into your daily diet, including protein! Of course, you can purchase protein powders in different flavors from health food stores. But it’s also important to include whole food ingredients in the mix as well. Get creative with your recipes by adding things like sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and nut butter. Not only will these ingredients give your smoothie a comforting hearty flavor, it gives your body a beneficial boost of protein. Just be sure you watch the sugar intake and only use ingredients that you are familiar with.
Prep your Meals - If you are like us, you lead a super busy life! As a result, you don’t spend a lot of time at home cooking. This is one of the reasons why many people are deficient in a variety of nutrients, especially protein. If you are looking to increase your protein intake, preparing your meals in advance can make a world of difference. Spend one day each week prepping your meat by cutting it into strips and cooking it in advance. You can separate the meat into individual containers and add them to meals as you go about your week. Try grilling or broiling your protein sources to give yourself some different flavors and textures.