We tend to show a lot of love to the micronutrients around here. They’re super important, but the truth is the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), are the building blocks of our bodies and critical to our health, so occasionally they need some love, too. Today we’re going to take an Everipe-style deep dive on protein (read: not-confusing nutrition info, but cool facts to text your dad, and delicious food ideas) that we like to call protein in reality:
How Much Protein Do I Really Need?
Have you ever found yourself comparing two food items and choosing the one with more protein? Guilty! Not that it’s a bad thing, but in the wellness world, the pursuit of protein seems endless. We’ve been primed to be on the protein hunt, but to what end? 8 grams of protein here, 20 there… what is it all supposed to add up to, exactly?
A disappointing truth for all you numbers nerds: the science is still out on exactly how much protein we need. Currently, the RDA (recommended daily amount) thinking would have you calculate your protein needs by multiplying your weight in lbs by 0.36 (and adding to that if you’re active). So, a sedentary 150lb person would need 54 grams of protein.
But many studies in recent years are advocating for even more than that, while other experts feel we are eating too much protein. So what’s a person to do? Advice we can get behind: don't stress about the number and seek out high quality proteins in your diet from whole foods like fish, poultry, lean cuts of beef and pork, eggs, nuts, legumes, and plant sources like ancient grains and vegetables. Adding these foods to your diet, especially in a situation where you are replacing highly refined carbohydrates with such foods, will increase your overall nutrient intake-including protein-which will have a positive impact on your health far greater than weighing food and crunching numbers.
How To Increase Your Protein Intake (Without Overdosing on Chicken)
If visions of rubbery chicken breast and gritty protein shakes are dancing in your head, stay with us here. That is hardly the future we want for you. Here are some real life (and delicious) tips on getting more protein into your diet:
Eat it first. The word protein originates from the Greek work protos, which means first. The ancients knew what's up. Eating your protein before other items on your plate helps:
- Kickstart your peptide YY. This governs satiation, so you'll feel full faster.
- Increase your metabolic rate after eating and during sleep.
- Helps your insulin and blood sugar from rising too high after a meal.
Easy Snacks: High Protein Foods
Some of our favorite high protein snacks that require little to no prep:
- Beef Jerky
- Boiled Eggs
- Greek Yogurt
And despite what mom told you, go ahead and eat peanut butter right off the spoon on busy days for a quick hit of fuel!
Easy Ways to Increase Protein in Your Meals
- Swap out grains like rice for higher protein ancient grains like quinoa or amaranth, which have 8-9 grams of protein compared to just 4 grams for rice per cup.
- Add canned fish to salads and side dishes as an easy way to ensure there’s protein.
- Sprinkle chopped nuts on . . . well, anything! They add a nice crunch along with healthy fats and satiation.
- Choose your meat well. You might not want to add chicken and salmon to every meal. Rotate in some lean pork and when choosing your red meats, selecting a leaner cut adds the double bonus of lowering calories AND upping protein.
Protein and Weight Loss: It's Complicated
We’re not big fans of the D word (diet) here at Everipe. We would much rather people try to make small healthier choices than to follow a food program based on calorie deprivation and labeling foods good vs bad. Here’s some of the science for why adding protein can be a helpful way to manage your weight:
- Your weight is managed by your brain, which gets its signals from hormones. Protein helps both increase the levels of satiation hormones while also decreasing the hunger hormone.
- Digesting proteins helps burn calories. Some say between 20% and 30% of the calories in protein are used for digesting it, called the Thermic Effect. It’s thought to be twice the amount for proteins vs carbohydrates.
- Reiterating our earlier point: incorporating more high quality protein into your diet will have an overall net positive effect on your nutrient intake, and therefore your overall wellness.
Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Protein?
While most of us are nowhere near these levels, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. A diet that is mostly protein can cause stress on the kidneys, which can lead to things like kidney stones and decreased kidney function, if they have to work too hard to get rid of the waste products of protein metabolism. Eating too much protein can also lead to digestive problems, bad breath, and headaches, which automatically means it can increase bad moods-and that is science, people. Plus, diets high in low-quality protein or proteins with inflammatory oils can also increase your risk for heart disease.
Our bottom line: choose your protein sources well. Try to have them throughout the day. And do not to eliminate healthy carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and whole grains that offer a lot of other health benefits.