Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients, besides carbs and fat, playing a vital role in the proper functioning of our bodies. Also called the building block of life, it’s composed of amino acids, which are essential for various bodily processes, including immune system function. A study published in the 2015 issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that dietary protein is a significant nutrient for various health outcomes.
With that in mind, let’s discuss what makes protein-rich food crucial for our overall health, as well as how to maximize its potential.
Supports muscle growth and repair
When we engage in physical activities, like resistance training, our muscles experience microscopic tears. Since protein is made of amino acids, it provides the necessary resources to repair and rebuild these damaged muscle tissues, leading to increased mass and strength. Moreover, protein-rich foods help to maintain muscle mass during weight loss, preventing muscle wasting and promoting a lean body composition.
Consuming an adequate amount of high-quality protein, such as lean meats and plant-based sources like quinoa, can enhance muscle protein synthesis and optimize recovery after exercise. Furthermore, a 2018 study in the USA found that eating protein before and after training resulted in better performance and recovery.
Increases satiety and supports weight management
Protein has a high satiety value, meaning it can help you feel full after a meal and reduce the likelihood of overeating or snacking. This happens because, when compared to carbohydrates and fats, the body uses more energy to digest, metabolize, and exploit the protein. What this actually means is that consuming protein-rich foods can slightly increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
However, considering a weight loss diet is hard for many in the beginning, to avoid the hassle of going to a store you can buy your protein from trusted and reputable web-based stores. For example, ordering meat online in Sydney is quite normal and more favorable than waiting in a queue or being annoyed that the piece you wanted just got sold. This will help you stay on track with higher protein intake to assist in weight loss and prevent weight regain after a calorie-restricted diet.
Supports bone health
Bone is not just a solid structure, but a dynamic tissue that’s constantly undergoing remodeling, which involves the breakdown of old and the formation of new bone tissue. Several studies have highlighted the importance of dietary protein in maintaining bone mineral density and reducing the risk of fractures, especially in older adults.
Protein-rich foods provide essential amino acids that are necessary for bone formation and collagen synthesis — a protein that gives strength and flexibility to bones. Regardless of your age, start introducing more proteins, like dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds into your diet to help maintain a healthy skeletal system.
Improves immune function
While vitamins and minerals, as well as a healthy lifestyle, are paramount to having a strong immune system, protein is an equally important contributor to it, as well. Antibodies, the key components of the immune response, are actually proteins, responsible for recognizing and destroying harmful intruders, such as bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, proteins participate in regulating immune responses, immune cell signaling, and supporting the production of cytokines — molecules that coordinate immune system activities. An adequate protein intake can provide the necessary amino acids for immune cell production and function, as shown by a 2019 study on type 2 diabetic patients.
Supports brain function and mental health
Amino acids from dietary protein stimulate the production of neurotransmitters, responsible for the regulation of mood, behavior, and cognition. A 2020 research from the Department of Epidemiology and Health Statistics of Qingdao University, China, suggests that an intake of protein from specific sources may help improve cognitive function in people over 60. Namely, consuming animal meat, eggs, and legumes has shown positive results, while consuming dairy products had no effect whatsoever.
In addition, protein-rich foods contain essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that support brain health. Including protein sources, like fatty fish and nuts, in your diet can positively impact brain function and promote mental well-being.
Promotes heart health
A diet rich in protein can contribute to heart health by supporting several key factors associated with cardiovascular well-being. Based on Heart Foundation, almonds, skinless chicken breasts, and salmon are among foods full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Additionally, protein can increase the levels of good HDL cholesterol, but you shouldn’t eat more than seven eggs a week to keep bad LDL cholesterol in check. Other beneficial properties for the cardiovascular system include lowering blood pressure and reducing triglyceride levels.
Undoubtedly, protein-rich food is crucial for our overall health, having effects like promoting heart health and supporting muscle repair. This makes the need for adequate protein intake imperative to achieve a balanced diet that will help us harness all the benefits of this macronutrient. But, before you start planning your meals, it’s best to consult with your physician and even dietician, to ensure you are eating the right proteins for your body.