Protein is an essential part of our diets and plays a vital role in the growth and maintenance of our body tissue. It accounts for about 16% of the total calories we consume every day, which can vary from person to person.
Proteins are dietary molecules made up of amino acids linked together by chemical bonds, called peptide bonds. Amino acids link through these peptide bonds to form long chains. A primary structure refers to the linear arrangement of amino acid units along such a chain. Proteins with different sequences of amino acids have distinct structures and functions. Each protein has a unique three-dimensional structural design that imparts specific biological activity, including molecular recognition or interaction with other proteins inside cells.
Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are about 20 kinds of amino acids, which are also the fundamental constituents of all proteins. The human body can synthesize most of these amino acids from other substances in food or by chemical synthesis in the laboratory. However, nine cannot be made in sufficient amounts by the human body and obtained through diet.
How To Incorporate Healthy Proteins In Your Diet
As the number of obese people increases in the US, one becomes more and more concerned about maintaining a healthy body weight. This often starts with proper dieting; however, other factors can contribute to healthy nutrition. All too often, people will focus primarily on reducing the number of calories they eat daily without focusing enough attention on what types of foods they are eating.
This article discusses some tips for incorporating protein-rich foods in your diet - it's nothing fancy, just good information. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest that 10-35 percent of an individual's caloric intake should consist of protein-rich food products (lean meats or low-fat dairy). Some experts even suggest that 30-40 percent of daily calories should come from protein, with a preferred range of 25-30 percent.
In addition to providing the body with energy and building blocks for cell growth and repair, new research also suggests that eating protein may boost fat loss. Protein-rich foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels which reduce cravings for highly processed carbohydrates. It is important to note that some protein-rich food products, such as red meat or processed meats, have been linked to specific health conditions, while others have been shown to promote healthy weight management.
It's best to consume complete proteins, which contain all nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce on their own (meaning we need them in our diet), near the end of your meal; this allows time for proper digestion before you go to sleep. You can also opt for protein-rich snacks or shakes to keep your energy levels stable and to help curb cravings.
The following is a list of high protein foods to add to your diet, in addition to nutritional supplements which are high in lean proteins:
- Lean meats such as beef, pork, lamb, or poultry (with the skin removed) - egg whites only (or two egg whites for each whole egg); note that most recipes call for at least two eggs per serving
- Fish and seafood products - cottage cheese; Greek yogurt with berries; low-fat cheeses such as mozzarella or Swiss cheese
- Fat-free milk products - nuts and nut kinds of butter; seeds including sunflower seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, and flax seeds
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas - tofu; seitan (wheat gluten)
- Nuts including almonds, cashews, or pistachios - hummus; tahini (sesame seed paste), which can be used to make salad dressings or sauces
Incorporating them into your diet is easier than ever with the wide variety of high-protein food products available today. They can also be delicious and versatile!
Here are a few examples of healthy, high protein recipes to get you started
Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites
Snacking on these homemade, no-bake chocolate peanut butter energy bites is the perfect way to curb your cravings for something sweet and pack extra nutrients into your diet.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup oat bran 1/2 tsp salt 2 tbsp cocoa powder 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder (or vanilla) 2 scoops fiber blend (or oat bran or ground flax seeds) 2 tbsp sunflower oil 3 tbsp brown rice syrup 1 tbsp ground flaxseed 4 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter
Directions: In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a small bowl, the wet ingredients and whisk lightly. Combine the two mixtures and stir until well combined.
Roll into balls (about 1 tbsp per ball) and place on a plate or baking sheet lined with wax paper; cover and chill for at least an hour before consuming.
Classic Turkey Burgers
These delicious turkey burgers are packed full of protein, fiber, and flavor! They can be prepared in minutes for a quick lunch or dinner that everyone will love.
Ingredients: 1 lb ground turkey breast 1/2 cup chopped onions two cloves garlic, minced 4 tsp chia seeds salt & pepper to taste 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preparation: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl using hands or a spoon. Form into burger shapes - about 4 oz each - then grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes per side or until burgers are fully cooked. Serve on whole-grain buns with your favorite toppings (optional).
Sugar-Free Ice Cream
This sugar-free, high-protein ice cream is easy to make and tasty enough for the entire family!
Ingredients: 1 cup low-fat milk 4 egg whites 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 3 packets stevia extract 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder (or similar) Directions: Mix all ingredients in a blender container until well combined. Pour the mixture into an electric ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's directions for making ice cream. This should take about 20 minutes or so for most machines. Enjoy immediately or transfer to a bowl and freeze until you're ready to enjoy it!
Protein shakes can be a great post-workout treat, especially if you are trying to lose weight. The following recipe is a high-protein shake that should satisfy your sweet tooth while delivering the nutrients you need to recover from your workout and stay energized for the rest of your day!
Ingredients: 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder (or similar) 1 tbsp 100% cocoa powder 1 tsp chia seeds/flaxseed ground up in coffee grinder or blender Pinch of salt Handful ice cubes
Preparation: Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth - about 30 seconds or so. Add more almond milk if too thick.
Enjoy immediately! This high-protein shake also makes a tasty snack for any time of the day.