Protein. What is the deal? Do we really need to eat protein every day? What is it exactly and what is it for?
Firstly, it is NOT overrated. Protein is an essential component of every single cell in the body.
Hair? all protein. Nails? all protein. Enzymes, Hormones, Bones, Muscles, Cartilage, Skin, Blood – all made from amino acid building blocks, which are the building blocks of PROTEIN.
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning our bodies need lots of it. We can't store protein the way we can store fat & carbohydrates (the other macronutrients in the body). That’s why we need it as part of our diets every day. Multiple times.
Protein is essential to the body for building and repair, enables the immune system to function and is needed to support recovery from illness and injury. Protein is what balances blood sugar - the only thing that will banish the hangries. As previously mentioned, nobody likes to be hangry or be around hangry
Kids need protein. Inadequate protein intake in children is associated with decreased height, frequent infections and overall stunted growth (Manary, 2013) (Lifshitz, 2009). Kids with ADD and ADHD have shown marked improvements in their behaviour and attention spans by balancing their blood sugar - eating protein at regular intervals. (Chaves-Carballo, 2003)
Adults need protein. Higher intake of protein leads to increased energy, strength and resiliency. (Lemiuex FC, 2014)
Elderly people need protein. The loss of muscle mass can lead to loss of function and independence in older age. Studies show that elderly adults with insufficient dietary protein age more rapidly and lose their independence and quality of life quicker. (Baum JI, 2016 )
Everyone needs protein. Protein balances mood, improves cognition and has a positive effect on overall behaviour. (Leidy HJ, 2015)
Here are some ideas for quick and easy protein fixes. Keep some prepped at home, in your bag for after school munchies or at the office for easy snacks and to stop that mid day croissant/pizza/ insert easy unhealthy food choices here.
Edamame – not just a sushi appetizer, these are a great source of plant protein, fibre and minerals
Snap, Snow or English Peas - fresh, crunchy, juicy, delicious, part vegetable, part bean, with the best of both - protein and fibre.
Protein powders – these can be used to make smoothies of course, but also useful for homemade high protein cookies or baked goods. Replace half the flour with protein powder!
Pumpkin Seeds – great on their own, high in protein, fibre and magnesium
Hummus and other Bean Dips – quick and easy, bonus nutritional value when you dip veggies in them
Nut butters – spread on celery, peppers, apples, spoons. No sugar added varieties, obviously
Nuts - any nuts will do, experiment with flavours. Pistachios, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, all great sources of protein and healthy fats. Mix some up in a sealed container with some dried fruit and coconut chips for an on the go snack that will keep in your bag/drawer/car for a long time
Bean Chips like Beanitos or Bean Crisps - salty enough to make you think you're eating chips, yet high in fibre and protein. Tricky, in a good way. Also a good vehicle for salsa or other dips.
Smoothie drinks with added protein powder or nut butters
Chia pudding – so quick and easy to make. Mix ¼ cup of chia seeds with 1-1/2 cups liquid – almond/coconut milk, kefir, yogurt, etc. Add flavours or chopped fruit as desired – cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla. Mix and let stand for at least 30 minutes before eating. Delicious.
Peas Please by peeled snacks – great, easy, high protein and fibre, low crap packaged product.
Roasted chickpeas - available in bags or roast your own.
Hemp Hearts - powerfully nutritious, sprinkle these little gems on applesauce, salad, yogurt, soups, smoothies, etc.
Love Grown brand Power Os cereal: looks like Cheerios, but made of Bean flour. High protein. Easy peasy.
Eggs – Hard boiled, mini frittatas, any which way. Contain all the essential amino acids. Choose free range or Omega-3 when possible - better for the animals, better for environment and another way of getting essential Vitamin D (Kuhn J, 2014)
Sardines – sounds crazy, but they are high in protein, essential fatty acids and elusive Vitamin D. Canned, shelf stable, choose olive oil or water soaked only - a taste that people either love or hate.
Jerky – choose free from MSG, sugar and preservatives, raised without hormones or antibiotics and these are a great shelf stable snack
Whole fat Greek Yogurt & Cottage Cheese – no sugar, high fat varieties. If you can handle dairy, these pack a serious protein punch
Collagen Powder – new fave alert. I wrote a whole blog on this here! Basically it’s an odourless, tasteless powder that dissolves quickly and easily. With roughly 1g of protein per gram of powder, it is incredible for skin, hair, joints and nails. Mixes right into my hot coffee every morning. Not veg.
Stay tuned for smoothie recipes, favourite protein powders and easy, nutritious breakfast ideas
*Disclaimers: If you are sensitive to any of the above mentioned foods – they obviously would not be a good choice for you. Functional blood allergy testing with a Naturopathic or Functional Medicine Doctor can reveal what foods you may be sensitive to.
* People with impaired kidney function have different metabolic needs, particularly when it comes to protein. If you suspect or are aware of kidney dysfunction please consult with your health care provider
* None of this information is a replacement for individualized medical advice. Please see your Personal Health Care Provider for advice regarding your particular needs.
* This post contains affiliate links, I may receive a small commission from sales of certain items if you link to them from here, but the price is the same for you.
Baum JI, K. I. (2016 ). Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Protein Intake . Nutrients. , Jun 8;8(6). pii: E359.
Chaves-Carballo, E. (2003). Diet therapy in the treatment of neuropediatric disorders. Revista de neurologia , Aug 1-15;37(3):267-74.
Kuhn J, S. A. (2014). Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce Vitamin D-rich eggs. Nutrition , Apr;30(4):481-4.
Leidy HJ, Todd CB, Zino AB, Immel JE, Shafer RS, Ortinau LC, Braun M (2015) Consuming High Protein Soy Snacks Affects Appetite Control, Satiety and Diet Quality in Young People and Influences Select Aspects of Mood and Cognition. The Journal of Nutrition. Jul;145(7):1614-22
Lemiuex FC, F. M.-A.-L. (2014). Relationship between different protein intake recommendations wtih muscle mass & muscle strength. Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society , Jun;17(3)"294-300.
Lifshitz, F. (2009). Nutrition & Growth. Journal of Clinical Research in Pediatric Endocrinology , 1(4):157-63.
Manary, M. (2013). Inadequate dietary protein intake: when does it occur and what are the consequences? Food and nutrition bulletin , Jun;34(2):247-8.