It’s common for health conscious eaters to indulge in a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Some have fully embraced the paleo diet while others choose to follow portion sizes similar to what’s recommended by dietitians or use protein powders to get their daily intake.
Women’s Health Magazine wrote about this in a piece about protein deficiency. Author Laura Tedesco went as far as to say Western society has become “obsessed” with consuming enough protein.
The Age also published an article which found for many consumers, protein has actually become code for healthy.
“It’s the most searched term, with 63 per cent of consumers looking for it”, according to a health trends report from Mintel Group.
Despite this, experts say some people still aren’t getting enough protein. Especially those who prefer not to eat a lot of meat. House Call Doctor has written previously about protein alternatives.
Obsessed or not, research shows protein is still very important to a balanced diet.
The body’s building blocks
Doctor Harold Franch, an associate professor of medicine at Emory University, told Time Magazine our bodies required the amino acids found in food sources of protein in order to stay healthy.
“From the walls of your heart to the muscles wrapping the bones of your arms and legs, protein amino acids are the bricks and mortar your body uses to build its various cellular structures,” he said.
“Consume too little protein and your body will start tearing down some of its existing structures in order to get the amino acids it needs.”
This usually results in muscle loss.
“When forced to make a choice, your body will take amino acids from your skeletal muscle in order to supply your heart and some other organs,” according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
More protein, less junk food
When you’re hungry it’s easy to (accidentally) smash a bowl of pasta and cheese or several toasted cheese sandwiches instead of cooking up a healthy portion of protein. But, Harvard researchers say option two will help you feel fuller for longer.
“One of the advantages of eating more protein-rich foods is that people who do it also tend to eliminate overly processed carbohydrates, such as white breads and prepackaged foods like cookies and crackers,” Doctor Michelle Hauser said in a blog post.
“Such foods are rapidly digested and turned into blood sugar, and tend to be low in healthy nutrients.”
But, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you should cut out carbohydrates altogether
“If you’re eating more protein but you have a good mix of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to make up the rest of it, that’s fine,” Dr Hauser said.