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We often associate protein with beefy muscle-men who spend their days in the gym pumping iron, but protein is an essential component to our overall health for a variety of reasons. It is the 2nd most abundant molecule in the body (second only to water) and makes up for approximately 20% of our body weight as a primary component of hair, skin, nails, eyes, muscles and internal organs. But since you’re a smart gluten-free cookie and you probably already knew that, I wanted to share with you 5 things you may not know about protein.
Your body uses the amino acids that make up proteins to create antibodies. And antibodies kick ass. Literally. These Y shaped proteins attach themselves to invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc…) and either destroys them itself or sends a message for back-up to get the job done and protect you from getting sick. So if you are constantly a sniffling Sally, you may want to boost you protein intake.
If you are expecting: A) congrats & B) eat some protein. The amino acids from protein are the building blocks of human tissue. So if you’re creating a human, you need the raw materials. Welcome to your role of contractor, Momma!
Proteins are used in the formation of certain hormones. Think of your physical body as an orchestra where hormones are the conductors. These conductors influence our physical, mental and emotional well-being by controlling how our cells function the same way a conductor instructs musicians. Lack of protein in ones diet can lead to hormonal imbalances causing our beautiful symphony to turn into a disorganized, ear bleeding mess. Things like appetite, metabolism, stress, sleep and even our ability to be happy is regulated by hormones so do yourself a favour and feed your conductors.
Eating in general makes me pretty happy, but protein has a serious biological effect on your mood. Serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that regulate your mood, are made from the amino acids found in protein. Without these essential building blocks, you may find yourself feeling like a bit of a Debbie downer. And that’s cool. We all have our days but maybe try boosting your protein intake a wee bit if it becomes a routine.
Studies have found that protein has the ability to support weight loss in a few different ways. It has been shown to increase the release of a gut hormone called Peptide YY. This hormone makes you feel fuller, longer therefore reducing caloric intake and also helps to reduce adiposity (fancy word for body fat). Studies have also shown that a high protein meal helps to suppress levels of Grehlin (the hunger hormone) longer than a high carbohydrate meal.
High levels of Grehlin = Hungry bear
Low levels Grehlin = No hungry Bear
But keep in mind that you don’t need to chow down on Fred Flinstone sized T-bone steaks to have a diet rich in protein. Focus on high quality foods from a variety of sources such as nuts, seeds, veggies, beans, rice, quinoa, lentils, meats, tempeh and of course one of my favourites, eggs. And as always, keep it balanced!
Here’s my favourite protein packed recipe for my Garden Party Crustless Quiche. It’s versatile for a quick and easy breakfast, lunch or dinner when time is tight.
In health & happy eats,