Excerpted from “Protein 101” By David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.N., Director of the UCLA Center For Human Nutrition
“A necessity for everybody
Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. It is an organic compound, composed of 22 amino acids, otherwise known as the building blocks of life. Protein is stored in muscles and organs and the body utilizes it to build and repair tissues, as well as for the production of enzymes and hormones. Proteins also make it possible for blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a ‘macronutrient’, meaning the body needs relatively large amounts of it. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that our daily protein requirements should be 10-35% of our total caloric intake, with men needing slightly more than women. A lack of protein can cause loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, as well as weakening of the heart and respiratory system.
How protein affects your weight
The widespread popularity of high-protein diets is due in large part to their ability to help manage hunger. When protein is absorbed, it sends a signal to the brain to decrease your hunger. Another benefit of protein is that it raises your resting metabolism by maintaining muscle mass. As we age, muscle mass decreases without exercise, so staying fit is a key to burning fat by keeping your metabolism high. Protein also leads to a much less rapid rise and fall of blood sugar and insulin, so you avoid the ‘sugar highs and lows’ after eating sweets without adequate protein. Certain foods, however, provide a healthier resource for protein than others.
Consider the source
You can obtain healthy sources of protein without high levels of saturated fat. For example, soybeans, nuts and whole grains provide protein without much saturated fat and offer plenty of healthful fiber and micronutrients as well…
Now that you’ve increased your knowledge of protein, you can effectively enhance your diet and allow good health to take shape.”