Protein is a vital nutrient and serves many important roles in the body. It is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle repair and growth. In addition, it has important roles on the cellular level with immune support, brain function, appetite regulation, blood sugar regulation, healthy hair and nail growth, and provides energy to the cells of the body when needed.
Perhaps one of the most well-known roles of protein is in repairing muscle tissue and building new muscle. This is important in all stages of life and for all activity levels. It aids in growth, development, bone density, maintaining muscle mass (especially as we age) and muscle strength.
Another important role of protein is a strong immune system. Many components of the immune system, including antibodies, are made up of proteins. Consuming enough supports the immune system in defending your body against illness and infections.
Daily Protein Needs
According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), our daily protein needs are estimated to be 0.8 grams/kg body weight for both adult males and females. If you are physically active 3 or more days per week, your needs are higher and estimated to be 1.0-1.2 g/kg body weight.
Focusing on one macronutrient doesn’t diminish the importance of consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods everyday. All nutrients work together to support the body and all of its functions. Ensuring adequate protein intake is important and contributes to muscle maintenance, a strong immune system, and weight management. Contact MNT today to schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians to find out more about your personalized needs and how best to ensure you are meeting them!
Protein plays a multifaceted role in brain health. It supports neurotransmitter production, tissue repair, and cognitive development. A well-balanced diet ensures optimal brain function with improved memory, cognition, and mental well-being.
Satiety is one of the greatest benefits of eating protein at all meals and snacks. It aids in satiety through the digestion process. Since protein is a large molecule, it takes the stomach time to break it down into amino acids. The longer food stays in the stomach, the longer we feel full which helps us eat less overall and helps reduce cravings. It helps reduce cravings in part due to blood sugar control. Since protein doesn’t directly raise our blood sugars, fluctuations in blood sugars are less likely which reduces cravings. Another role protein plays in satiety is through enzyme and hormone production which is especially important for our hunger and fullness hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
Food Sources of Protein
Protein is found in a wide-variety of foods. Aiming to consume multiple food sources everyday is a great way to be sure we are getting the right amount for our bodies. You can find it in animal sources such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and lean dairy products. Plant-based sources include legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, whole-grains, and vegetables. Another way to consume protein is through supplements both animal-based such as whey powder and plant-based such as pea protein.