In Greek, protein means of first importance. Protein is essential to life. The body is made up of more than fifty thousand different proteins. There are eight amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that are known to be essential.
The term essential means these amino acids can’t be made in the body and must come from the diet, and must be fully present for normal protein synthesis to occur.
With all of our clients one of the first things we do is give them a protein goal to achieve each day. We do this because protein is known to help the body detoxify and it also helps to build the immune system. So whether their goal is fat loss or muscle gain we always recommend they increase their protein.
For fat loss it helps control their insulin levels and by eating more protein they are satisfied for longer and tend to make better choices throughout the day. Muscle mass is highly correlated to the strength of the immune system and as most people know protein helps to repair and restore tissue. So by simply increasing your protein intake you are able to make some big changes to your body composition and more importantly, in my opinion, your health.
The problem we tend find is that sometimes we assume our clients know what protein is and what sources of food contain the best quality protein, so today I want to go over some of the best food sources of protein and what to look for.
When we say “protein” what we are referring to is high quality grass-fed organic animal food sources or fish. We are not talking about hot dogs and deli meats. I want to make this very clear as the health benefits we say can be achieved from eating a high protein diet comes from the high quality animal food sources mentioned, not the deli meats. The studies you often hear about that claim meat causes cancer and other disease often use poor quality meats and this is why they find these results. Often the meats contain hormones, antibiotics, and the meat is grain fed. I fully agree with these studies, but what you find is that if they do a study where the correct type of meat source is used all markers of health tend to improve.
Some good sources of protein include:
This short list is by no means extensive. I have just used it to show you some quick options as an example.
Some ways to ensure you are eating a high quality protein are:
Don’t buy packaged meat from Coles or Woolworths
Use a local farmer or butcher where you can ask questions about what the animals were fed and if they were treated with hormones or antibiotics etc.
Look for certified organic products only
Avoid deli meats
Stay away from tuna as it has been shown to contain high levels of mercury
Mince your own meat as much as you can so you know the quality of the meat
Limit intake of sausages and minced products. Try to eat only gluten free with natural casing, and with no added yeast.
Another thing we always talk to our clients about is eating a large amount of plant based foods, particularly the green leafy vegetables, to counter the acid and oxidative stress that can be produced by eating protein. Cooking meats at lower temperatures is also a good idea to help deal with this too.
Proteins are also used in the body to make bone, skin, nails, hair, muscle and even cells. The brain also relies on protein intake to work efficiently. Vital nutrients the brain uses such as DHA, carnosine, creatine, and vitamin B12 can only be obtained by the diet.
The importance of high quality protein sources in the diet cannot be over-estimated as so many of the body’s functions rely heavily on the raw materials these proteins provide.
Hopefully this has given you a greater insight into some of the role’s protein plays in the body and also some valuable tips on how to ensure you are consuming the best quality sources of protein to build and maintain optimal health.