If you’re prone to the illness this time of year, increasing your protein intake could be just the thing to help you along. Protein is essential for immune health to fight off infections. It’s also important for hair, skin, nail, heart and brain health, to name just a few more of protein’s functions. As you can see, protein does more than just build muscle.
How Much Protein Do I Need To Consume Per Day?
Since everyone out there is biochemically unique (gender, genes, height, weight, etc.) and performs varying levels of activity, we all require different amounts of protein to suit our day-to-day needs. Average adults should be getting 45-50 grams of protein per day.
What Is Protein?
Protein is comprised of amino acids, many of which are essential (i.e. we need to obtain them from food) and many our body can make. However, just because our bodies can make certain amino acids to build proteins, doesn’t mean it will. This is why all components of one’s diet need to be looked at so proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals can work synergistically to create a strong, healthy body.
What Is Complete Protein?
Not all protein is complete (comprised of all essential amino acids), so we need a variety of foods in our diet to make up the difference. Animal protein is a complete protein, comprised of all essential amino acids. Most vegetarian protein sources (e.g. beans, nuts and grains) are not. Hemp and quinoa are complete vegetarian proteins, meaning they don’t need to be combined with a complementary vegetable protein, to deliver all of the essential amino acids. To learn how to make a complete vegetarian protein, see this post.
Protein Digestion & Bioavailability
Not all protein in food is created alike. For instance, if you consume 8 grams of protein from milk, only 40% of the protein will be utilized (bioavailable) by the body at any given time. Also, if you have inadequate stomach acid, protein won’t be digested or absorbed properly. A quick fix for this is not ingesting liquids with meals as it dilutes the digestive enzymes in your stomach necessary for breaking down protein. Aim for drinking water 30 minutes before and 30 minutes to 1 hour after your meals.
8 Reasons to Eat More Protein
Protein is a multifaceted macronutrient that helps to perform more functions within our bodies than any other component. It’s needed for these 8 reasons and many more:
- Enzyme formation for efficient metabolism.
- Hormone regulation.
- Neutralizes bacteria, creates antibodies.
- Builds structures and tissues for protection (e.g. muscles, hair, nails and bone collagen).
- Body tissue formation (especially important in times of healing as extra protein in the diet is needed to regenerate tissues).
- Energy (after carbohydrates and fat are used).
- Helps with fluid balance as it maintains the sodium and potassium balance.
- Maintains acid/alkaline balance in the body.
For a quick pick-me-up, here’s a recipe for a hemp-based raw protein “bar.” It’s full of healthy fats from flax, hemp, coconut and walnuts and loaded with a concentrated source of complete protein. Adding hemp is a delicious way to bump up your protein, fibre and omega-3 and 6 fatty acid intake.