The word protein carries a lot of “weight”. It’s the focal point of 99% of restaurant entrees, the reason body builders gulp raw egg whites, and an attribute consumer packaged goods highlights in bold. It’s common knowledge that protein is an important part of the diet, but before you grab a protein bar, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, what exactly is protein? Is it only important for weightlifting and working out? Why do we even need it?
Protein is a macronutrient made up of chains of amino acids–You may have heard before amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 different types of amino acids that the human body needs to function properly. While our bodies produce some of the amino acids naturally, there are 9 amino acids that do not naturally occur in our bodies, and thus need to be acquired through eating—protein. When the human body doesn’t get enough of the essential amino acids from foods, it cannot create necessary proteins. This can lead to problems such as a weakened immune system, decreased hormone production, and the breakdown of muscle tissues. Essentially, amino acids are responsible for the structure and function of our cells, and considering our entire bodies are made up of these cells, not getting enough protein to get the amino acids is a slippery slope of health issues.
Conversely, adequate protein intake is associated with a host of health benefits. Research shows that the more protein we eat, the less likely we are to experience cardiovascular problems, which is a big-time benefit when you consider heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutritionfound that those who’s diets contained high levels of amino acids had lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness, and protein consumption has as much impact on heart health as other lifestyle factors commonly associated with cardiovascular benefits like reducing salt intake and increasing physical activity. And another 2015 study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, found that protein consumption lowers blood pressure as well as hypertension risk. In fact, the combination of protein as well as fiber can reduce hypertension risk by 60 percent!
Think the benefits stop there? Think again. Protein also plays a role in bone health. As we age, bone density naturally decreases, which puts us at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. The risk for such health issues is magnified for women, as estrogen levels concurrently decline with age. Fortunately, protein in the diet can help here too. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Women and Aging found that protein has the power to increase bone strength, which ultimately decreases the chances of bone-related injuries and illnesses.
And when it comes to weight loss, protein is a superstar nutrient. Protein builds and maintains lean muscle mass—and the muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. It helps you feel full and satiated, too, especially when combined with fiber, because together, these nutrients take the longest to digest. And when you feel fuller for longer, you’re less likely to overeat at the next meal.
But how much protein is enough protein? Optimal values differ with gender, age, and level of physical activity, but a rough approximation is .8 grams per kilogram of your weight.
The good news is that it’s easy to incorporate protein into your diet. Protein is abundant in animal foods like meat, poultry, and fish; if you would rather get your protein from plants, it’s rich in foods like nuts, seeds, and legumes as well. Consuming protein is made even easier with the help of protein-packed products, like Aloha’s protein powders. These organic, plant-based protein powders are made from hemp seed, pumpkin seed, and pea protein and provide you with a complete set of amino acids—all 9 of them that are essential for the body to function properly. And at 150 calories, with 3 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of net carbs per serving, an Aloha shake falls under the #FFACTORAPPROVED umbrella.
Power up, power through, power to you with protein!