The Power of Protein


It’s a Miracle
Protein is not only for body builders.
There has never been more focus on protein. Protein-centric diets, some of which seriously shun carbs, are being talked about and adhered to everywhere, from Mumbai to Moscow. Protein is now the holy grail of weight-loss, and the remedy to reverse type 2 diabetes. Improved mental focus, physical endurance, increased levels of HDL, reduced blood pressure and sugar levels—protein is the miracle that is finally having its moment in the sun.
The gym rat and the whey supplement jar may have become a meme, but protein is not only for body builders.
Protein is essential to repair muscles that have been worked out during exercise. During exercise, muscle fibres are effectively torn down; protein is called the building block of the body because it helps rebuild these damaged muscles.
Proteins are needed to make enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters, which are key to healthy brain function and learning. Studies say eating more protein helps your body absorb more calcium. Also, consuming protein-rich foods helps synthesize glutathione, also known as the “master antioxidant”, promoting longevity. Protein is particularly essential for children, as it supports growth and development.
Better Get Enough
Protein helps you fill up faster, and for longer, so you won’t feel the need to binge at meals.
What happens if you don’t consume enough protein? You find yourself low on energy primarily; this is because protein is used to produce enzymes that aid in digesting food and activating your metabolism. You’ll also have low concentration and memory, unstable blood sugar levels, mood swings, and trouble with maintaining weight.
The reasons protein is worshipped for weight-loss are several. Eating protein creates thermogenesis, which essentially means the body has to expend more energy in order to digest food. Protein also makes muscle preservation possible, helping the body burn fat instead, which is why body builders will centre their existence on protein adoration. Protein helps you fill up faster, and for longer, so you won’t feel the need to binge at meals.
Combining carbohydrates helps slow down the absorption of sugar, so blood sugar levels are stabilized. As a result, food-related mood changes are brought under control. Some amino acids from protein are also needed to balance hormones, control mood, even act as a natural remedy for anxiety.
Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, which is why you need to replenish the reserves. The Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This roughly amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams for the average sedentary woman. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories should come from protein to reduce risk of chronic disease in adults.
It’s Not All the Same
Meat, poultry, seafood along with eggs and dairy are complete and high-quality proteins.
All protein is not created alike— the biological value (BV) of protein is determined based on the amount of protein that is actually absorbed and utilized by the body. The higher the quantity of protein absorbed, the higher the BV of the source. About 20 amino acids make up protein, out of which 11 are produced by the human body and 9 are absorbed from food. The protein consumed is broken into amino acids which build and repair tissues, help in digestion, provide energy etc.
Protein sources like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy are termed ‘complete proteins’ or high-quality proteins, since they contain all 9 essential amino acids that are needed for ideal functioning. On the other hand, most grains, nuts, seeds and legumes contain some protein too, but they are incomplete proteins.
A 100 gram serving of cod, tuna or salmon has 20 grams of protein while 100 grams of lean chicken will fill you with 29 grams of protein. The nutritional debate about red meat continues to rage on, but most nutritionists agree that goat meat is much healthier than beef. A 100-gram serving of goat meat has only 122 calories to the 179 in beef, with 23 g of protein comparable to beef’s 25 grams. As a bonus, goat meat is also rich in iron and lower in cholesterol.
So apart from being incredibly tasty, goat meat, poultry and seafood are also great for your nutritional well-being.
No to Not Natural
Natural protein-rich foods come with a host of other benefits, as opposed to supplements.
Many people focusing on building muscle through workouts etc. focus on getting their protein through whey and other protein supplements. While this may an easy way to do it— a couple of scoops of the powder blended with a liquid etc—supplements are not considered whole-food proteins. This is because they lack other nutrients that are naturally found with proteins found in seafood, poultry, meat, dairy etc. Examples of these are the afore-mentioned iron in goat meat, omega 3 fats in fish, B-complex vitamins in some seafood etc. Whole natural foods will always trump processed foods with unbalanced nutrient composition.
Whey protein supplement consumption has been linked to acne breakouts, hormonal imbalances, glucose intolerance, cravings etc. and may contain toxic heavy metals and artificial ingredients. The price you end up paying is more than the steep cost of these supplements—it is at the cost of your health and well-being, ironical considering fitness is the reason why people look at supplements.
So Much To Do
There’s so much you could do with meat, poultry and seafood.
A small serving of natural whole-food protein will fill you up, and comes with a host of culinary potential possibilities. No need to sip up a bland beverage each time, when you could be planning a grilled fish for lunch or roasted chicken for dinner. And why just stick to meals when it’s as easy to snack on baked crab cakes and baked prawns with lemon and garlic.
Having roast chicken in the fridge will make it easier to put together a breakfast sandwich or a lunch wrap. Goat meat mince make for great kebabs and kheema pav, while curry-cut mutton is the go-to choice for a mutton curry or even biryani. Fish and other seafood are also versatile enough to be made into biryani or a stew, or can be tawa-fried for a delish appetizer. If cooking sounds like too much effort, look at perfectly made curries, roasts and appetizers that are made with quality ingredients, and are stamped with homestyle scrumptiousness and delight.
If there was ever a way to send your nutritionist and tummy into a tizzy of joy, it’s the complete protein way, that’s made with yummy seafood, chicken and mutton.

About the Author

An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.

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