As mentioned previously, a basic understanding of nutrition and macronutrients can help you make healthier choices in the grocery store and the kitchen. Food contains macronutrients which provide calories and energy and include fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
A Closer Look at Proteins
Protein is a part of every cell and tissue in your body and is necessary for growth and repair of muscle tissue. Protein provides the necessary “building blocks” for bones, tendons and cartilage, skin and nails, and is also used in the production of hemoglobin, enzymes and hormones.
Protein is a combination of complex compounds called amino acids. Of the 21 amino acids there are 9 that are said to be essential amino acids which the body cannot synthesize or produce and must be provided by the foods that we eat. These essential aminos can only be provided by animal sources of protein and as a result animal proteins are said to be nutritionally complete.
While Vegans and vegetarians can receive protein from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, these plant-based sources lack one or more essential amino acids and are considered incomplete proteins. This explains why it is important for Vegans and vegetarians to combine proteins from different plant based sources to provide their essential amino acids, combining the right plants can provide an array of amino acids.
Your main sources of protein are most likely lean meats like beef, lamb, pork and chicken, while your secondary sources should include fish and a variety of dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Vegans and vegetarians choose proteins from legumes like chickpeas, soybeans and tofu, nuts and grains.
Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and provide all of your essential aminos plus a variety of vitamins and minerals. Look for eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids as they will increase the supply of this healthy fat in addition to your protein intake.
How Much Protein?
Your body does not store protein and amino acids each day like it does carbohydrates and fats. You need a daily supply of protein in your diet. Women on average need about 45 grams of protein per day and much more while pregnant or breastfeeding. Men need an average of about 55 grams of protein per day, but this amount varies by age, your activity level and fitness level. If you are still in your growing stage, or an active athlete you will require much more protein to maintain muscle.
Proteins and Weight Loss
Protein in your diet can help prevent cravings and overeating, the amino acids promote a feeling of fullness, reduce your hunger and prevent urges to snack. Protein also requires more calories to digest than fats and carbs, and a diet high in protein supports lean muscle tissue and more muscle tissue burns more calories.