Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. It is an essential building block of bones, muscles, organs, cartilage, skin, and blood. It is used to build enzymes and hormones. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Not only does it help you maintain and lose weight, but it also works to stabilize your blood sugar levels, improve your ability to learn and concentrate, reduce brain fog, support your muscles and bones and support the absorption of important nutrients.
But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore needs a daily supply. The body tries to use carbohydrate and fat for energy. This leaves protein free to be used for maintaining healthy tissues, enzymes and hormones.
Shortly after a meal, in your stomach, proteins are digested into amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. The proteins and fats slow down the absorption of carbohydrates in your food and keep your blood sugars more stable.
The amino acids are absorbed by the small intestine and then distributed to the cells in the body. The cells take what they need and rearrange amino acids to make new proteins or repair older ones. I have found that people sensitive to processed and man-made foods need more protein than other people. It is the proportion of protein to carbohydrate that decreases cravings and obsessions. Too little protein can unsettle you, and cause more difficulty with cravings.
Protein is found in a variety of foods: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and beans and grains. I have found that people with food addiction and other eating disorders need a bit more protein than other people; that is why checking the protein on the label is so important. One ounce of a protein based food weighs 28 gm, but only 5-7 grams of that is protein. The number on the nutrition panel is that smaller number of grams of protein. So, if your food plan calls for three ounces of protein, that means you would expect to get about 21 grams of protein.
Plant based proteins are fine as protein sources. Foods like beans, peas, quinoa and lentils, as well as low-fat dairy and eggs, are also rich in other nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals. But be wary of processed proteins; they often have less protein than you would expect. Read labels on any vegetarian item you choose, be sure that extra carbohydrates have not been added.
Meat eaters, choose lean cuts of meat, but do not reduce your fat to compensate. Beware when buying ground meats, as sugar and water and other chemicals may have been added. Frozen or fresh, fish can be a great source of protein. Some–like salmon–are even rich in Omega-3s, a healthy, unsaturated fat. Again, check the label for additives.
Casein and whey are part of the milk based proteins and are processed and fractionated. Casein is absorbed more slowly than whey. Be cautious with their use.
Above all, food is to be enjoyed. Read the labels, but then enjoy the foods you choose.
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