Proteins do a lot.
They are the major building blocks for muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and the internal organs, including the heart and the brain. They’re needed for hormone formation and control bodily functions such as growth and metabolism rate. Proteins also help with the body’s acid/alkaline balance, help to regulate the body’s water balance and make up most of the body’s weight—after water.
When you eat protein, the body breaks it down into amino acids so it can be used by the body. There are many kinds of amino acids, but the body can’t make eight of those and must be obtained through food. Only animal proteins like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products contain all eight of the essential amino acids, making them the only complete proteins.
If one of these eight essential amino acids is missing, then the body’s ability to synthesize the protein it needs can be severely inhibited. Not receiving the amounts of amino acids and protein necessary can have adverse effects on the body. Proteins called immunoglobulins, for instance, are the substance of your immune system. Without these particular proteins, the immune system can feel the effects.
Then there’s protein and its possible effects on weight management. Protein-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish or beans can slow down digestion from the stomach to the intestines—and that translates into feeling fuller longer and getting hungrier later.
Protein also offers a gentle, yet steady effect on blood sugar levels which allows you to avoid the quick, steep rise in blood sugar that can accompany something like white bread or a baked potato. Additionally, the body is said to work harder to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbohydrates, and that means the body uses more energy—another plus for protein and for burning off some calories.
You’ll want to balance your protein intake, though, with healthy fats and carbs—and remember that too much protein can even weaken your bones. Some tasty and nutritious protein sources include organically raised cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo or venison.
Grass-fed beef, for example, is leaner and lower in calories than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids and important vitamins like B12 and E as well as conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. It’s way better than assembly-line cuts of flank steak from hormone-injected cattle eating pesticide-sprayed feed laced with antibiotics.
Fish with scales and fins caught from oceans and rivers offer lean sources of healthy protein, high amounts of healthy omega-3s, as well as the essential amino acids. You can find these healthy proteins in most supermarkets, natural food stores, fish markets and specialty stores.
So, stock up on these proteins. They’re nutritious and weight-friendly.