Is Protein Really That Important?
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, I will give you the short answer now:
Yes. Protein really is that important.
As its been a little over a month since our last Eat By Design seminar, I have decided it is time for a little refresher on the topic of protein.
The root of the word protein is “proto” which has its origin in Greek meaning “first” and “foremost.” Similar to the word protagonist, which is the main character in a story, protein is the main molecule that makes things happen in your body.
Your all-important DNA, your genes, the stuff scientists say makes you who you are, is actually just a set of blue prints for proteins. Each gene is a template for making a certain protein in your body. These proteins become your cells, tissues, organs, brain matter, enzymes and hormones (once they have linked up in the right way and mixed themselves up with fat, sugars, and the chemicals that we generally talk about in terms of vitamins and minerals). It is protein that runs the show.
The building blocks for every protein are amino acids. Come amino acids can be made in our bodies, but some of them cannot be. The ones that our bodies cannot make are called “essential amino acids.” Since we can’t make them, we HAVE TO eat them.
Protein sources that contain all of the essential amino acids are called “complete proteins.” As a general rule, animal proteins are ALWAYS complete proteins. Plant based proteins are almost all incomplete protein sources. The few exceptions include vegan staples like quinoa and hemp. Combining rice and beans also creates a complete protein. The issue with the plant based proteins, is that even though you can get all of the essential amino acids from plant sources you have to eat huge portion to get enough.
For example, to get 20 grams of protein from quinoa, you would need to eat 2 ½ cups of cooked quinoa. That sized serving has 775 calories and over 100 grams of sugar.
In comparison, to get 20 grams of protein from chicken you need less than 3 ounces (or 100 grams) – which is smaller than the size of my palm. That size serving is about 120 calories and 0 grams of sugar.
This is why we recommend getting your protein from animal based sources. A little goes a long way when you are eating good quality meat. You only need about a palm size portion 3 times a day to get the optimal amount of protein if you are fairly active. If you are totally sedentary, you only can probably get by with 2 servings.
Did I mention that protein also improves your insulin sensitivity, helps balance your hormones, calms your hunger signals, and increases your metabolism? Yep – it does all of that too. So whether you are simply trying to stay healthy or you are trying to lose weight, good quality animal based protein is your friend.