The concept of a “healthy diet” isn’t always easy to define. You may try to limit the number of calories you consume each day or eat foods that are high in vitamins and minerals. But when was the last time you thought about protein?
It is true that high protein diets are often seen as the preserve of fitness enthusiasts. However, getting enough protein is important for everyone. Here are five important reasons to eat more protein.
Builds muscle mass.
If there’s one thing that most people know it is that protein is an important building block for muscle growth.
Weightlifters have been consuming vast quantities of chicken and protein shakes for years. Things have changed more recently. More people are starting to appreciate the many ways that muscle can benefit them in everyday life.
Muscle itself requires plenty of calories to support. This means that more muscular people tend to burn more energy, and stay leaner as a result.
Many people trying to lose weight end up not consuming enough protein, which can lead to muscle loss. The result is that their body burns fewer calories, making it ever harder to lose each pound.
A diet rich in protein can help to mitigate this risk.
Studies have shown that as we get older we tend to lose muscle mass. This process is known to experts as “sarcopenia”.
In more severe cases this lack of muscle can impact everyday life. It makes it harder to carry out routine activities or increasing the chances of slips and falls.
Once again, studies have shown that a high protein diet can help you to hold onto muscle mass as you age.
When you think of protein, therefore, don’t just think of bodybuilders. Even if you don’t want to build larger muscles, eating a reasonable intake of protein helps you maintain what you already have and age gracefully.
Satisfies the appetite.
We know eating whole grains and other non-refined carbohydrate sources helps to keep us full throughout the day. However, the surprising thing is that scientists have found that protein can have an even bigger impact.
In one study, volunteers ate a diet of the same number of calories, but contained varying levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate.
Results showed that individuals eating the high protein diet experienced less hunger than those eating plenty of fat or carbohydrates.
The high protein group lost more weight than the other groups because they felt less hungry at meal times.
To assuage mid-morning hunger and lose unwanted pounds, supplementing your diet with additional protein is important.
Moderates blood sugar.
Diabetes is on the rise thanks to our modern, sugar-rich diets. Unfortunately, these sudden “bursts” of glucose in the body can eventually lead to insulin resistance, possibly even develop into diabetes.
It has been estimated that almost 10% of the US population suffers from diabetes so this is a huge problem.
Worse, almost three times as many people are estimated by the CDC to be “pre-diabetic” – meaning that if left untreated they will develop diabetes within the next five years.
Finding ways to control blood sugar levels is crucial for us all in order to reduce our chances of suffering from such a serious condition.
Studies have shown that some months on a high protein diet can significantly improve blood sugar levels. Changing from sugary processed foods to high quality protein sources can have a hugely positive impact.
If that weren’t enough, diets with lower carbohydrate but higher protein intakes also seem to improve cholesterol levels. Any doctor will recommend lower cholesterol to protect you from the dangers of heart disease.
Supports brain function.
A fascinating scientific investigation looked at the links between diet and mental health problems.
The two groups of volunteers ate either a low protein or a high protein diet for four months, while being regularly assessed for signs of depression.
Experts found that the high protein group experienced improved self-esteem and a reduction in depressive symptoms when compared to the low protein group.
If you’re concerned about negative moods, or associated issues like anxiety or stress, a higher protein diet may help to improve your symptoms.
Contributes to strong bones.
During menopause, women’s skeleton’s naturally start to lose mineral density. This leads almost inevitably to osteoporosis, characterized by thinner, weaker bones that are far more likely to suffer a fracture.
Most of us know that calcium is important for strong bones, just like vitamin D. What many people don’t realize, however, is that protein is also crucial for your skeleton.
A study of 40,000 women in Iowa found that those individuals with the highest protein intake were least likely to suffer from broken bones.
Furthermore, another research program found that women who increase their protein intake significantly slow the rate at which they lose bone density.
So keep your bones strong as you age, by ensuring you’re not only getting enough calcium, but protein too.
How to get more protein in your diet.
There are loads of high protein foods that you probably have in your kitchen right now. Some great examples are eggs, lean meats such as chicken and beef, and dairy products like milk, cheese or yogurt.
You might be surprised to hear that foods like almonds, broccoli and lentils also have impressive amounts of protein.
The key is factoring these ingredients into your daily meal plan.
The downside to these ingredients is that they can be expensive and most of them require some kind of preparation.
Fortunately, thanks to developments in the sports nutrition market, there are now more products and supplements designed specifically for protein rich diets.
The most common are the range of reasonably-priced protein powders, though these can also complemented by tasty protein bars and even some ready-made protein drinks.
However you choose to boost your protein intake, research suggests that your body will thank you. To age better, control your appetite, support your muscles and keep your bones strong long into your senior years.
This article was contributed by the nutritionists at Simply Supplements, who recently launched their own range of high quality whey protein powders.