We are consuming more protein than ever before
There has been a phenomenal rise in the consumption of protein over the years as people became more aware of its role in building muscle, losing weight, and gaining strength.
Before you start having that protein, you need to understand a few things. First of all, more protein does not really mean “eat more meat.” Poultry, beef, and pork (including milk, cheese, and eggs) definitely provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and vegetables.
The following table shows some healthier protein sources (in grams):
• 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt – 17
• ½ cup cottage cheese – 14g
• ½ cup cooked beans – 8g
• 1 cup of milk – 8g
• 1 cup of cooked pasta – 8g
• ¼ cup or 1 ounce of nuts (all varieties) – 7g
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database, 2015
Why eating protein is important
Protein can do wonders to us … from taking care of our energy levels to helping build muscles and maintain a steady flow of energy throughout the day. Let’s take a look:
1. Protein helps reduce appetite
Studies depict that protein is by far the most filling nutrient. It makes you feel fuller with lesser food. Because protein fills you up longer, it can help you lose weight without starving. By replacing some of the carbs and fats you eat with protein, you can easily shed a few pounds.
2. Protein increases muscle mass and strength
Protein forms the building blocks of muscles. Hence, it’s only logical that eating more protein would lead to more muscle buildup.
That’s why several studies indicate that eating sufficient protein can help increase muscle mass and strength. If you aim to gain muscle and strength, you must eat plenty of protein. Also, a high-protein diet can reduce muscle loss while losing weight.
3. Protein is essential for your bones
There is a myth that most of the animal proteins are bad for your bones. This theory stems from the notion that protein increases “acid load” in the body, leading to calcium depletion in the bones in order to neutralize the acid. Contrarily, most studies have shown that protein is in fact good for our bones. People who consume sufficient protein tend to have better bone health even as they get older and have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
4. It boosts metabolism and helps burn fat
Ok, we know you’ve heard this before.. a high-protein diet has been shown to considerably boost metabolism and increase the amount of calories you burn, 80 to 100 more calories per day to be more precise.
Vegan or whey protein?
Got a sensitive stomach? Choose your protein wisely
If you wish to incorporate more protein in your diet to build more muscles or have more energy, it’s advisable to understand a few basics about these two types of protein: vegan and whey protein.
Vegan protein is a plant-based protein that has fiber and digestive enzymes, which help ease digestion and absorption, keeping your gut relaxed while ensuring you are satiated.
Plant protein is hypoallergenic, meaning it will be least likely to react negatively with your body.
Whey protein comes from milk and requires an enzyme called lactase in order to be broken down for digestion. A sensitive gut and age are known factors that causes one to produce less of this enzyme, leading to bloating, abdominal discomfort, and gas.
Plant or whey/animal protein – the debate continues
It is a common misconception that plant-based protein can’t provide all the essential amino acids and is, hence, not considered a ‘complete protein’. To overcome this issue, you can go for ‘concentrated protein’ sources like quinoa, Jerusalem artichoke, peas, beans, raw nuts such as almonds or pumpkin seeds or you can combine different plant protein sources in a day to help them “complete each other”, meaning when you consume two incomplete proteins with balancing amino acids, they combine to produce a complete protein.
It all depends on your requirements
Both vegan and animal-based proteins have their own specialties, depending on what you’re looking for. For example, rice or hemp protein is excellent for those who are lactose-intolerant and have dietary restrictions and allergies and it’s less likely to cause inflammation. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids, is easier for the body to absorb, and it is a complete protein. Both have their pros and cons, but one is going to be a better choice depending on you and your needs.
What makes protein snacks so popular?
Do you like to snack between meals or pre and post workout? It’s great if you do so because snacking keeps you fueled throughout the day. However, don’t go snacking on empty calories. Eating healthy, protein-rich snacks would keep you energized when hunger strikes or when you feel listless.
As per The Journal of Nutrition (February 2010), approximately 97 % of Americans like to snack, receiving nearly 24 % of their calories from snacks alone. So, it’s very important to choose your snacks carefully and incorporate those that are nutritious and filling. Protein snacks top the chart these days as people have recognized the importance of including more protein in their diet and since we are all in a rush most of the time, grabbing a protein-rich snack or making one and carrying it with us seems like a great option.
Choose any one from these protein-rich vegan snacks the next time you feel those hunger pangs: pistachio granola, avocado tomato bruschetta, Greek yogurt, roasted chickpeas, hummus and veggies etc.
Other lesser known protein-rich food options
(These can be cooked and eaten as a snack in smaller quantities or can be had as full meals):
• Black bean pasta
Made from simple ingredients (only black beans and water), it has 17 grams of carbohydrate and 25 grams of protein! Regular pasta has 40 grams of carbohydrate and only 8 grams of protein.
• Powdered peanut butter
Powdered peanut butter or Pb2 is dehydrated and most of the oil is pressed and squeezed out of the peanuts used for preparing it. That means you get 85% less fat – there are only 45 calories in 2 tablespoons of Pb2, which is much lesser compared to your regular peanut butter.
Celebrities endorsing the vegan way of life
An astonishing number of celebrities are embracing a vegan diet (i.e. Liam Hemsworth, Ellen DeGeneres, Jared Leto, Rooney Mara). This is encouraging and as celebrities have the power and the fame to make a difference, adopting this lifestyle will go a long way in influencing people to follow them and give up meat eating altogether. A vegan celebrity represents a more sustainable lifestyle, endorsing ethical treatment of animals and taking care of the environment as well.