High protein and low carb diets are really popular at the moment. Whether you are looking to lose a few pounds, or are a bit of a gym junkie trying to build up your muscle mass. Upping your protein intake seems to be the way to go. And there are high protein versions of all sorts of foods now available on the supermarket shelves. But, what are the benefits of protein?
How many of us actually know why we need protein and how it benefits us?
9 Benefits of Eating Protein
Protein is vital for both the structure and metabolic operations of the human body. There are tens of thousands of different proteins within the body. And each has a different and essential role.
1. Growth and Maintenance
Around half of the body’s protein is present in structural tissues such as muscle and skin. Protein is therefore essential for growth due to the continuous turnover of body tissues and body structure maintenance throughout life.
2. Important Enzymes
Enzymes are proteins that aid the thousands of biochemical reactions in the body such as the chemical breakdown of food during digestion. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk and dairy. People who lack this enzyme can’t tolerate dairy and can suffer from bloating, cramps, flatulence, nausea and diarrhoea.
Bodily functions relying on enzymes include:
- blood clotting
- energy production
- muscle contraction
3. The Formation of Hormones
Some proteins are hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that aid communication between your cells, tissues and organs.
Examples of hormones and what they do:
- Insulin – made in the pancreas and helps to control the levels of glucose in your blood.
- Thyroxin – responsible for regulation of metabolism.
- hGH (human growth hormone) – stimulates the growth of various tissues, including bone.
4. Strong Hair, Skin and Nails
Some proteins are fibrous and provide cells and tissues with stiffness and rigidity.
- Collagen is a very important protein found in your skin, bones, muscles and blood vessels.
- Elastin is much more flexible than collagen. Its high elasticity allows tissues in your body to return to their original shape after stretching or contracting, such as your skin, uterus, lungs and arteries.
- Keratin is responsible for strong skin, hair and nails. It can often be found in expensive hair products and treatments to strengthen damaged hair.
5. Maintaining Proper pH
The body has to function within a very narrow pH range and this is maintained by proteins. Proteins act as a buffer system. They help your body maintain proper pH values of the blood and other bodily fluids.
6. A Healthy Immune System
Proteins help form antibodies which keep us healthy by defending against disease causing bacteria and viruses. Without these antibodies, bacteria and viruses would be free to multiply and overwhelm your body with the diseases they cause.
7. Transportation and Storage of Nutrients
Transport proteins carry substances such as oxygen, cholesterol and nutrients throughout your body.
Haemoglobin is a protein which carries oxygen around the body. Glucose transporters move glucose to your cells.
Some proteins have storage roles. For example, ferritin, which stores iron.
8. To Build and Repair Muscle
A large component of muscle tissue is protein. It is therefore important to consume enough through our diet to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue.
9. It Provides Energy
Proteins can supply your body with energy.
Although carbs and fats are better suited for providing energy, protein can be called upon when energy reserves are low. This could be due to periods of fasting, endurance exercise or low calorie intake.
If the body does not receive adequate food intake it breaks down muscle so that the amino acids can supply you with energy.
For Those Watching Their Waistline…
As an added bonus if you are watching your waistline:
- High protein foods require more energy to digest and metabolise. This means you are burning more calories processing them.
- Protein is very satiating. It helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. This means you are less likely to over-eat other foods like fats and carbohydrates.