Protein is one of our three macronutrients and one that should feature daily in our diets. Protein is a buzz world in the world of fitness due to its role in muscle growth and repair, but did you know that protein is so important when it comes to other areas of our health too? From hormone balance to the immune system, it is a food group that we ought to pay more attention to.
Do you get enough protein daily? Keep reading for daily protein recommendations and protein serving sizes.
So, what other areas does our body use protein for apart from muscle and tissue growth?
- Balancing blood sugar levels
Our blood sugar levels are reflective of how much blood is circulating in the blood stream at any given time. Our bodies break down carbohydrates at rates based on a few things. A) The type of carbohydrate – simple carbohydrates such as sweets, pastries, and processed cereals are broken down very quickly by the body and will influence blood sugar levels within about 30-60 minutes. However, carbohydrates such as lentils, wholegrains and beans are broken down a lot slower due to the high fibre content and less processing. B) The presence of protein – when you pair carbohydrate with protein and fats, they have a buffering affect on the speed at which the body breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. Therefore, protein is vitally important for maintaining normal blood sugar level response after a meal or snack and is involved in supplying longer lasting energy. It is also a great foundation for balancing female sex hormones, as insulin, involved in blood sugar levels is in tune with all our other hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone.
Protein takes the body longer to breakdown than carbohydrates and it remains in the stomach for a longer period. Therefore, ensuring you have a good source of protein with each meal and snack is key to helping you feel full and satisfied after eating. In addition, protein will therefore help to control appetite and hunger to minimise mindless grazing and snacking throughout the day.
- Immune system
Although a lot of the focus in placed on micronutrients such as vitamin C when it comes to immune health, protein plays a huge role in the functioning of the system. You may be surprised to know that most of our immune cells require protein to be produced, therefore a lack of dietary protein can contribute to low levels of immune cells, such as T cells. Our all-important anti-bodies, which help us fight off viruses and bacteria also rely on protein, so it certainly should not be underestimated when wanting to build up your immune resilience.
- Mental health
There are 9 amino acids (the building blocks of our proteins) that must come from the diet as the body cannot produce them on its own. One of these amino acids is called tryptophan – which can be found in protein sources such as turkey, salmon and eggs. Tryptophan from our food is converted into serotonin within the body. Serotonin a brain chemical known as our ‘happy hormone’ as it is heavily involved with our mood and mental health. Low levels are associated with low mood and even depression.
- Bone health
Protein is required for strengthening our bones and is therefore particularly important when ageing. This is even more important for women post -menopause as levels of the bone protective hormone oestrogen has significantly declined. Ensuring you are eating enough protein has been associated with lower risks of falls and fractures in older age too, so try to keep on top of your protein intake as you age.
How much protein do you need?
The average person requires about 0.8-1g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
So, if you weight 70kg, you required roughly 56-70g protein per day.
If you perform a lot of resistance exercise or weight training, then you may require slightly more at 1.2-1.5g per kg of body weight – the same goes for being pregnant.
Am I eating enough?
As a guide, please see the table below for amounts of protein per serving of food.
|Serving of food
||Amount of protein
|Cod fillet – 230g
|Greek yoghurt – 170g
|Mackerel, tinned, 100g drained
|Edamame beans 80g, boiled
|Eggs, 3 whole
|Chicken breast, 200g average, raw
|Salmon, 100g fillet, cooked
|Lentils, 100g, drained
|Chickpeas, 100g, drained
|Tofu, 100g firm
|Jumbo prawns, 100g raw
|Whole milk, 100ml
*** This blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure any diseases or conditions. Please contact your GP or private health consultant if you have any personal health concerns or consult a registered nutritional therapist for personalised dietary and lifestyle advice and guidance.