Protein – why is it so important?

Protein is a crucial component to our diets. Proteins are the main building blocks of your body, they are used to make muscles, tendons, organs, enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters which all serve important roles in the body. Therefore, regardless of if you exercise or not, protein is essential.

Proteins are made of small molecules known as amino acids, which you may have heard of before. Some of these amino acids can actually be produced by your body, whilst some are essential as they can only be attained through the diet.

Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. It helps in supporting metabolism, as well as having a role in immune and enzyme function.

Protein helps to increase satiety, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer. This is going to help in reducing the temptation for unnecessary snacking later on. This is great if your goal is fat loss, as a reduction in appetite will lead to a reduction in total calorie intake. Win win!!

It also plays a role in detoxification, as well as hormone production in order to transmit information between your cells, tissues and organs.

Finally, protein intake plays a large role in maximising recovery from exercise.

Most of us do consume enough protein through our diet and supplements are not essential; however, protein supplements can sometimes be great for convenience and to help boost the protein content of some meals.

Common mistakes with protein intake

It’s a common trend to see high protein consumption only at meal times. However, we want to focus on spacing intake out over the day, which will help to control hunger and energy levels throughout the day. Studies show that protein is the most satiating macronutrient (over carbohydrates and fats) – helping to keep you feeling fuller – hence why aiming for a source in each meal and snack is important.

How can we increase protein intake over the day?

Starting with breakfast, you can boost the protein content of porridge by mixing in a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt, egg whites or adding protein powder.

Alternatively, you could start your day with eggs, for example an omelette, poached eggs on toast or having a couple of boiled eggs alongside your porridge. Beans on toast is a great one too.

Base your snacks throughout the day on a source of protein, for example: Greek yoghurt, nuts & fruit, hummus & veggie sticks, a couple of boiled eggs, low fat cheese & apple, cottage cheese on corn cakes or a smoothie with added protein powder.

When it comes to lunch and dinner, try sneaking extra proteins into your meals for example, adding various beans into your meals, adding nuts and seeds on top of your your meals, adding yoghurt into curries or try boiling grains or making stews and soups with stock or bone broth

Finally, whether you’re following a plant-based diet or not, we should all be aiming to increase plant-based proteins into meals. Chickpeas, beans & lentils are so versatile, convenient and affordable. Other sources such as tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds are great. With additional time on our hands at the moment it is the perfect time to get experimenting in the kitchen!

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