Proteins are molecules in the human body made of amino acids. They are coded by our genes and form the basis of living tissues. They play a central role in biological processes.
What are proteins used for in the body? Protein is used for growth and repair. If you remove the water from the body, about half of the remaining weight (called the dry weight) is protein. Making new cells, or repairing damaged cells, requires protein. Protein is obtained from the food that we eat. If carbohydrate and food are lacking in the diet (eg during starvation) the protein in the body can be 'burned' to supply energy.
All enzymes are proteins. Proteins may also be converted into sugar or fat that is used for fuel. Adequate protein in the body helps maintain a good energy level, stabilizes blood sugar, assists adrenal and thyroid activity, helps control weight and assists bowel function.
Importance of Protein in our diet: We must take the right amount of protein in our diet as it is a component of every cell in our body and in fact, the hair and nails are mostly made of proteins. Our body uses proteins to build and repair tissues. You need proteins to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
It is also an important building block of bones, cartilage, skin, muscles and blood. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a "macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. (Vitamins and minerals, which you only need in small quantities, are called "micronutrients.").
Unlike carbohydrates and fat, your body does not store protein, so it has no reservoir to draw from when you’re running low. Protein bars and shakes are a great way to supplement your diet to ensure you’re getting the right amount of protein.
Different forms of Proteins in our meal: Protein comes from a variety of sources such as meat, milk, fish, soy, eggs, beans, legumes, and nut butters. When proteins are digested, they leave behind amino acids, which the human body needs to break down food.
Whey, a high quality protein source naturally found in milk, is a complete protein and contains all of the amino acids your body needs. In general, proteins derived from animal sources (i.e. milk, eggs & meat) are complete, but your body’s ability to use the protein varies.
Proteins in our food: We eat proteins from animals and plants which is the main source in our diet. They actually down into amino acid components and then rebuild into our body proteins. This is known as protein digestion and then protein synthesis.
Foods containing proteins can be divided into three groups:
Concentrated Protein Concentrated protein foods include red meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and beans.
Medium Protein Foods Medium protein foods include grains such as rice, wheat, oats, millet and barley. These foods contain 6 to 14% protein and are considered incomplete proteins. This means they should be combined with other protein foods to provide complete protein.
Low Protein foods Fruits, vegetables and juices are considered the low protein foods as these contain less than 5% protein.
How much Protein you need in a day? Protein requirements are complicated because the amount we need changes with age.
Most people get enough protein, but some might do well to add a few additional sources. Protein is important to many physiological functions from building and maintaining muscle and bone to keeping cells in good working order.
Healthiest Sources of Proteins: There are a variety of foods that one can get proteins from, for example, meat, fish, eggs and plants such as beans and nuts. A non-vegetarian can easily get all the protein he or she needs while a vegetarian needs to choose the right amount of protein with a little care.
List of Low Carb and High Protein Foods:
Chicken breast is an excellent choice as it’s not only high in protein, but low in fat and calories. It’s lean because it is white meat, and a good choice. A typical serving size to aim for is a 3 ounce chicken breast, or about the size of your fist. It is best grilling or broiling chicken and using herbs and seasoning to add flavor, and then add to salad, soup, or serve as the main entrée. Excellent for building lean muscle, and a tasty main staple to your diet! For exampla, half grilled chicken breast that weighs 3 ounces after cooking has 26.7 grams of protein.
Turkey: Ground turkey is a versatile and healthy way to enjoy protein. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and can be cooked up and used in just about anything.
Lamb: Both lamb and chicken have around the same amount of protein. Most people don’t tend to think of lamb being a good source of protein. Most cuts of lamb meat offer between 20 to 25 grams of proteins. A cut of lamb shoulder meat has slightly more proteins than other cuts of chicken. The saturated fat contents in chicken and lamb are different even though the protein content doesn’t vary much. Unfortunately, lamb is rich in saturated fat and calories, with 4 oz. containing 331 calories and almost 10 g of saturated fat. Braised lamb shoulder meat tops the list, providing between 25.8 and 30.2 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving. Lamb meat contains a bit more calories hence mix it with healthy vegetables and sauces. But preferably do not make this your primary protein source.
Veal: Veal is an excellent source of protein, but one must have an acquired taste. You could opt for leaner cuts like veal shank, loin or even chop. Even if you not a fan of veal, it’s still worth trying.
Salmon: Salmon is one of the super foods and has good fat concentration or Omega-3 fatty acids. You get a lot of nutrients from this particular fish and also packed with protein. This fish is low in calories and a great choice to your eating plan. Tilapia is one of the mildest flaky fish and a good source of protein. You can enjoy it broiled, grilled or baked. Do experiment cooking with a variety of vegetables and just a touch of lemon juice and some fresh herbs added into would be excellent for a great meal.
Crab: Crab is also a nice option of protein but enjoy it when baked, broiled or boiled which is actually the healthiest and preferred form of cooking. Hard Boiled
Egg: Eggs are an excellent high protein food that really helps you to build lean muscle with fewer calories and fat than other options. A great way to start the day as they are easy to prepare and convenient to grab!
Nuts & Legumes: Almonds: Almonds are an excellent source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats. Having 10 almonds to your daily meal plan can give you the required nutrients. Eating almonds may even help you maintain a healthy body weight. One thing to keep in mind with almonds and all nuts is the serving size. This is based on 1 ounce and you need to be sure to monitor and not eat these mindlessly for best benefits.
Walnuts: The nutritional value of walnuts lies mainly in the essential omega-3 fatty acids they possess. Walnut is also a rich source of proteins and known to contain high amount of proteins in comparison to eggs. The total protein content of walnuts is 24%. You can add walnuts to your salads, mix them into homemade, low-sugar sweet mix or use them as a crunchy topping for pilafs or pasta dishes.
Pistachios: Though pistachios make a great protein choice, they are like the other nuts a bit higher in calories. They are satisfying with the delicious taste, high fiber, and good protein concentration and therefore make a good sound choice.
Tofu: Tofu by itself doesn’t taste good but if added or soaked up with other flavours then it really tastes incredible. This is one high protein vegetarian food that should be added to your healthy eating regime.
Hummus: Hummus makes a great spread or dip with whole grain crackers. It can easily be used as a healthier condiment on sandwiches or just to enjoy as a quick snack. It has a nice taste and therefore makes a great protein source. Do be careful not to overindulge as the calories can add up. Protein is an essential part of any diet and vegetables are a great way to get more protein into your diet.
Protein is the key to the growth and repair of your muscles, bones, ligaments, tissues, and even your hair, skin and nails. It also boosts your immune system and helps your body fight infection. It maintains bodily functions, such as digestion, metabolism and circulation.
Here are some of the best protein-packing vegetables that include Beans, Asparagus, Watercress, Cauliflower, Broccoli & Brussel sprouts, Artichoke and sweetcorn etc. Though you may have felt limited with your protein options before, you now see that there are more foods than you realized. Do get creative in your cooking styles and find new ways of adding in healthy and protein packed to your daily diet instead of using protein supplements.
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