High-protein diets now dominate the weight-loss scene. Many of you may have tried one of the many popular diets such as the Zone, South Beach, Dukan and Atkins diets.
Nutritionists are constantly being asked, "Do these diets work?" and "How much protein should I be eating?" The truth is protein has many more functions than simply assisting with weight loss. We should be focusing on protein's health benefits instead of what it can do for our waistlines.
Protein is made up of many different amino acids, nine of which are "essential" amino acids, which are vital for a healthy mind and body.
Although it is common knowledge that protein is required for building muscle, did you know it is also the basis of our tendons, ligaments, collagen, hair and skin? Dietary protein sources are necessary for healthy hormone production, correct fluid balance and the transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout the body. Protein is also essential for antibody production and a healthy immune system.
The weight loss link
Including protein in meals promotes the feeling of fullness, satisfies hunger and reduces the need for extra, unnecessary calories.
Foods that are naturally high in protein also have a low glycaemic index (GI), which means they have little effect on blood-glucose and insulin levels. Stable blood glucose will help balance energy levels throughout the day and promote body fat breakdown, especially during exercise.
Managing glucose and insulin levels are vital for weight loss and long-term weight management. This is why high-protein diets often deliver results.
But protein-only diets are unbalanced and lacking in vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
How much is enough?
The recommended intake of protein is between 0.7 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight depending on activity levels and whether or not you are pregnant. I recommend including some form of protein in each meal as well as some snacks. Great sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans, and good sources include grains such as rice, quinoa and multigrain bread.
To get your recommended daily intake, have an omelette for breakfast, or add 30 grams of vanilla protein powder to a smoothie. For lunch, have chicken or chickpeas with a sweet potato and coriander salad. For dinner, try a beef stir-fry or a soybean ragu.
Vegetarians are most at risk of health complications associated with low protein intake, simply because animal products contain the highest amounts of protein.
While soybeans and quinoa are considered complete protein sources, as they contains all nine essential amino acids, other common plant sources of protein (such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds and rice) are incomplete proteins.
To get the most out of a vegetarian eating plan, you need to combine your plant sources. Mixing rice with legumes and seeds, for instance, will provide all the essential amino acids.
100g chicken or meat = 22g-25g.
Half a cup soybeans = 14g.
200g yoghurt or 40g cheese = 10g.
1 cup dairy or soy milk = 8.5g.
1 cup cooked quinoa = 8g.
A quarter cup pumpkin seeds = 8g.
Half a cup legumes = 8g.
1 cup cooked rice = 4g.
For more information, see: http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/food+diet/nutrition/protein+what+you+need+to+know,17845