A quick internet search on how to get enough protein may lead you to a plethora of websites advertising exclusive supplements, bodybuilding, or the latest hot diet trend.
The reality is, everyone needs protein. It is one of three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fat, that the body requires to function optimally.
What does protein do for your body?
Protein is one of the main structural components of your body’s cells. It helps you maintain an optimal immune system by producing antibodies that help fight bacteria and viruses. Protein helps the body through the healing process and is a building block for the body’s tissues, enzymes and hormones. It is a major component of your body’s hair, skin, nails and muscles. Protein also helps transport the body’s atoms and cells.
Without enough protein in your diet, the body’s muscles begin to break down in order to fuel the body’s protein needs. When your muscles begin to break down, your metabolism slows and other body systems begin to falter. This is why it is important to fuel your body with enough protein.
The average adult typically needs about 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, however your daily protein needs can vary based on your: level of activity; presence of various medical conditions; if you are pregnant or lactating; if you are recovering from surgery or injury; or if you are looking to reach specific body composition goals. Speak with your Nutrimedy registered dietitian for more information regarding your personal protein needs.
How can I get more protein in my diet?
Choose a variety of protein sources. Although meats are one of the food sources with the highest protein content per portion, you don’t always have to choose meat products as your protein source! Changing up the types of protein sources you choose to eat from day to day can help you from getting burnt out on eating the same types of foods. A fun challenge can be trying to practice “Meatless Monday” where you aim to meet your daily protein goal through all vegetarian or vegan proteins, like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy protein sources.
Aim to have a protein source on your plate at each meal or snack. Research shows that eating protein at each meal or snack throughout the day can help keep you more satiated by keeping your hunger hormone, ghrelin, at bay. Research also shows that protein is better absorbed when spaced throughout the day, rather than in one large quantity.
Some ways to include more protein during the day include:
-Swapping Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes. Some favorites include homemade Greek yogurt based ranch dip, French onion dip, and buffalo chicken dip! -Snacking on roasted edamame, roasted chickpeas or fava beans, nuts, and seeds. These are great sources of “grab and go” style protein that are easy to keep in a car or desk and make great travel snacks. -Adding a protein source to vegetable and grain based dishes. Don’t forget to throw some turkey or shrimp on your lunchtime salad or place sliced steak or chicken inside of your taco or quesadilla! -Keeping pre-cooked protein sources on hand. Some examples are shrimp cocktail, pre-sliced deli meat, or frozen black bean or veggie burgers. -Eating a protein bar or drinking a protein shake as a meal or snack.