Protein is composed of amino acids that link together to form long chains. Picture protein as a string of beads, each standing for one of the 20 amino acids. Here are some fundamental functions of protein in the body:
- It fosters the growth and sustenance of tissues.
- It causes biochemical reactions critical to bodily functions such as metabolism and digestion.
- It acts as a chemical messenger for your cells, tissues, and organs.
Consequently, maintaining an adequate protein intake is vital. The minimum protein consumption suggested is 50 grams per day, commonly referred to as the Daily Value (DV). Nonetheless, experts recommend a higher intake for optimal health benefits.
Incorporating more protein in your diet could accelerate muscle growth, assist in weight reduction, and enhance overall health. However, meeting this goal can prove challenging, particularly for those with busy schedules.
Here are some practical strategies to help you meet your protein needs:
1. Grab A Protein Bar
A protein bar is a convenient solution for incorporating more protein into your diet. It’s a favored snack among fitness enthusiasts, weightlifters, and bodybuilders, as it aids in muscle growth and maintenance.
Typically, each bar provides about 20 to 25 grams of protein, accompanied by several vitamins and minerals for added nutrition. With an assortment of options available, you can find your perfect protein bar at sports supplement outlets and grocery stores.
However, be cautious. Some protein bars on the market can contain high sugar content and numerous calories, making them like candy bars. Choose bars containing whole-food ingredients such as nuts, whey, or casein, and purchase from trustworthy sources.
2. Snack On Cheese
Snacking can be a smart way to increase your protein intake if you make healthy choices. Not to mention, snacking on protein-rich foods can help you feel full for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating during meals.
Many common snacks, like pretzels, chips, and crackers, are low in protein and other vital nutrients. In contrast, an ounce of cheese (such as cheddar) contains seven grams of protein, a few calories, and a generous amount of calcium. While it’s essential to note that some cheeses can contribute to high cholesterol levels, consuming cheese in moderation can be part of a balanced diet.
Try including cheese in your meals or pair it with tomatoes, sliced fruits, or whole grain crackers for a satisfying and nutritious snack.
3. Substitute Common Breakfast Foods With Eggs
Many breakfast staples, such as cereals, bagels, and toast, are low in protein. Though a cup of oatmeal contains about five grams of protein, it might not be sufficient for your body’s needs.
Eggs, on the other hand, are a good source of protein. Three large eggs can provide 18 to 19 grams of high-quality protein, along with essential nutrients like choline and selenium.
Moreover, research suggests that having eggs for breakfast may keep you satiated for a few hours, helping you consume fewer calories throughout the day. Therefore, consider replacing your typical low-protein breakfast with eggs.
4. Use Chopped Almonds As Toppings
Almonds are nutrient-dense and high in fiber, magnesium, and monounsaturated fat. They’re also low in digestible carbs. So, how do they fare regarding protein content?
An ounce of almonds provides six grams of protein, making them a good protein source among nuts. Besides being a good source of protein, almonds also contain a significant amount of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage.”
Sprinkle your favorite snacks, such as salads, cottage cheese, and yogurt, with a tablespoon or two of chopped almonds for an added protein boost and a touch of flavor and crunch.
5. Take Protein Supplements
Ensuring enough protein from your diet alone can be challenging, particularly if time is not on your side to prepare or buy protein-rich food items. This is where protein supplements, like whey powders, come into play.
Protein supplements are a go-to source of protein for athletes and individuals seeking to build muscle. They offer a quick and convenient way to increase protein consumption for those finding it difficult to meet their protein requirements through food alone.
When choosing a supplement, review its biological value (BV) score. This score indicates how efficiently proteins can contribute to the growth and repair of body tissues.
Here are some commonly used protein supplements, along with their BV scores:
- Casein: Derived from milk, casein is a slow-digesting protein that contains all the essential amino acids (EAA) your body needs. It has a BV score of 77.
- Whey: Also a byproduct of milk, whey is rich in all the EAAs and boasts a high BV score of 104, making it an exceptional protein source.
- Soy: This plant-based protein is a viable alternative to casein and whey. Its BV score is slightly lower at 74, but it still provides all the EAAs your body requires.
Before purchasing a supplement, consult with your healthcare provider to ensure they’re suitable for meeting your protein needs. Remember, supplements should not replace a balanced diet but rather complement it, filling any nutritional gaps that may exist.
6. Savor Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is another nutrient-dense food that’s high in protein. It’s produced by removing whey and other compounds, yielding a creamier, protein-rich yogurt.
Depending on the brand, a seven-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 17 to 20 grams of protein, approximately double the protein content of regular yogurt. Additionally, Greek yogurt is a good source of probiotics—live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health.
Consuming Greek yogurt may help the body generate and release gut hormones like peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). These hormones may suppress appetite, helping you feel satisfied for longer periods.
In addition to this, Greek yogurt also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is believed to aid in fat loss.
Protein is a vital macronutrient that helps repair body tissues, facilitates important biological functions, and acts as a chemical messenger within our bodies. Hence, meeting your daily protein requirements is critical for your overall health. With the practical strategies outlined above, this goal becomes far more achievable.