Protein is considered one of the most important food elements (also known as a macronutrient) for the normal, healthy growth of the human body, and there are many science-backed reasons as to why you should eat more of it. Your hair and your nails, for example, are made up of mostly protein. Your body also needs protein to create hormones, enzymes and other types of chemicals, and is essential in the building of our muscles, bones, cartilage, blood and skin. While most people consume enough protein to avoid becoming deficient in it, it’s never a bad idea to increase your protein intake – as whether you’re wanting to lose weight or just create a healthier environment for your body, it has many benefits.
Staying on the subject of weight loss, protein can be significantly helpful in assisting with this as it is more filling, meaning you’ll notice reduced levels of hunger which ultimately means you’ll also be less likely to crave unhealthy snacks (i.e. sugary or salty foods, like candy, chocolate or potato chips) in-between meals. According to one study, increasing your protein intake to 30% can result in eating as many as 400 fewer calories each day. Muscle loss is also a problem for some, and there are a few different reasons why that can happen – one being too much cardio exercises and not enough strength training. If you’re focusing on low-impact, non-weight bearing exercises, you’ll find it’s not enough to tone and define your muscles, so you should consider a combination of the two in your workout routine. If this isn’t enough to help build muscle then that’s where protein comes in, as it not only works as a good building block, but it also helps you maintain your muscle mass as well as strengthen them. If you’re someone who plays sports, you’re likely all too familiar with sports-related injuries. These types of injuries can set you back weeks, if not months at times, particularly if you’re prone to them or if your body isn’t able to heal as quickly on its own, which can also lead to loss of muscle mass, and is also another reason why a protein-rich diet is important.
If you’re overweight or obese, this can pose many dangers to your health – including increasing your risk of developing diabetes and having high blood pressure, which is also known to cause strokes. Studies have shown that individuals who have increased protein intake had lower systolic blood pressure readings by as much as 1.76 mm Hg, and a diastolic blood pressure reading of 1.15 mm Hg. Along with causing strokes, high blood pressure can also contribute to weakening or narrowing of the blood vessels, heart failure, and even heart attacks, so it’s important to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. If you’re still unable to get your blood pressure where it needs to be by increasing your protein intake and making other healthy lifestyle changes on your own, you should speak with your physician as they may need to prescribe you medication to help keep it under control.
If you have a slower metabolism, eating more protein can help boost it which will also increase the amount of calories you’ll burn. One study conducted showed that those with a low-protein diet burned around 100 more calories per day, while those on higher-protein diets burned, on average, approximately 250 more calories per day compared to those who had less protein intake.
You can learn more about why protein is good for you via Canada’s Food Guide.
As for the best sources of protein, it can be found in meat (beef, pork, lamb and veal), poultry (chicken, turkey), fish/seafood (salmon, sardines), legumes (beans, peas, soybeans, lentils), nuts and seeds, eggs, and low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt.)